The island of Dr. Moreau

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German first edition, Bruns, Minden 1904

The island of Dr. Moreau , English original title The Island of Dr. Moreau , is a fantastic novel published in 1896 by the English writer HG Wells . It contains elements of science fiction , horror and adventure literature .


Structure and narrative situation

The actual plot is a first- person narration from the perspective of Edward Prendick, which is integrated into a rudimentary framework by means of editor fiction . The narrative is presented as a written report which the nephew and heir of the narrator finds among the papers of his deceased uncle and which he makes available to the public with this book. The frame story consists only of a two-page introduction signed by nephew Charles Edward Prendick in the style of an editor's foreword. The following 22 chapters reproduce the fictional written report of Edward Prendick and end with his signature.


The privateer Edward Prendick was shipwrecked in the South Pacific in 1887 . As the only surviving occupant of a small lifeboat, he is saved from death by the doctor Montgomery. He is on board the schooner Ipecacuanha with a strange load of animals - including a llama and a puma - on his way to a lonely island, where he operates a "biological station" under the direction of the biologist Moreau. When the island is reached, the captain of the schooner Prendick sets out again at sea. Moreau initially declares that he cannot take anyone on the island, but is finally persuaded to save Prendick and take him on the island.

Gradually Prendick realizes that what is going on in the research station is surrounded by a secret; He is not allowed to enter their laboratory, but animals are evidently vivisected there . One day he was so disturbed by the wheezing screams of the puma that Montgomery had brought to the island that Prendick fled his accommodation. He wanders around the island aimlessly and meets a number of strange, more or less human-looking creatures that belong to the " beast folk " . He is pursued by one of these living beings, but can escape to his room. The next day, the screams coming from the laboratory sound so human-like that he breaks the ban and opens the door to the ward. He believes he recognizes that Moreau is vivisecting a person and, fearing that he will suffer the same fate, flees to the animal people's village from the angry Moreau. When Montgomery and Moreau pursue him, Prendick threatens to drown himself in the sea, but is finally persuaded to return.

In a long lecture, Moreau convinced Prendick that he did not transform humans into animals in the laboratory, but rather animals into human-like hybrid beings - chimeras . The more than 60 animal men on the island are the result of Moreau's surgical experiments with various animal species and have been given upright gait, speech and other human features through manipulation of the body and brain. Hypnotically suggested laws ( the law ) are supposed to prevent his creatures from falling back into their animal nature and walking on all fours; for violations animal man threatens a return and "post-treatment" in Moreau's lab, which they fear fully the "House of Pain" ( House of Pain call). One of the laws forbids the consumption of meat and the killing of living things. When a killed rabbit is found, Moreau starts a punitive expedition to the animal people's village; Prendick finally shoots a "leopard man" who apparently committed the crime. One day the "puma man" to be tears himself away from the operating table and escapes from the ward. During the subsequent chase, Montgomery is threatened by several animal people and kills them. Finally, Montgomery and Prendick find Moreau's body - he has become a victim of the puma man. Montgomery is desperate and gets drunk. In his intoxication he got the idea to give alcohol to the animal people. Under Montgomery's guidance, the drinkers destroy the only boats on the island and use the wood to stoke a campfire. When Prendick hears gunfire, he wants to come to Montgomery's aid, knocks over a lamp and sets the station on fire. When he arrives at the campfire, he discovers that Montgomery was also killed by beastmen.

Prendick spends another ten months alone with the beastmen on the island. With his human abilities in the use of tools and weapons and his appeals to the “law”, he initially succeeds in gaining respect, but after a while, as Moreau prophesies, the animal beings increasingly fall back into their animal nature, unlearn language and upright gait. Attempts to build a raft will not succeed Prendick. One day a small sailing boat with the corpses of two castaways (apparently crew members of Ipecacuanha , who has since had an accident ) washed up on the island . Despite this ominous omen, Prendick does not hesitate to flee to the open Pacific by boat, at least to escape from the island, and is discovered days later by a ship accidentally taken on board. After his rescue, however, no one wants to believe the adventures he tells of. Back in London, he can no longer stand other people's company; they look too much like the island's beastmen. His constant fear that they, too, could slip into their animal nature at any time, allows him to withdraw as far as possible from the human world and find peace in the world of books.

Origin and text history

Book cover of the English first edition (Heinemann, London 1896)

A rather extensive, but incomplete, handwritten manuscript of a first draft for the Moreau has been preserved, albeit probably not completely, as it breaks off in the middle of a dialogue between Montgomery and Prendick. Robert Philmus dates its creation to the end of 1894. At that time, Wells had already made his first breakthrough as an author: The time machine was published as a serial novel and had received some hymn reviews, the book edition was in preparation. The plot of the first Moreau draft differed considerably from the later final version. Although Prendick's shipwreck was already included, some of the wording corresponded almost verbatim to the later published version. But the cruel captain was still completely missing as a fictional character, the sailing ship was still a yacht (called the Dancing Faun ) that Moreau himself commanded. Not only did Moreau and Montgomery live on the island, but Moreau's family too: his wife and son. The descriptions of the animal people and their social life looked significantly different, and the plot was directed to a much greater extent on the deciphering of the secret of the island by Prendick. Since the manuscript breaks off after 112 pages, it is not clear which end Wells intended.

In the spring of 1895 Wells discarded this first draft and completely reworked it several times, probably in four phases - a number of partial manuscripts or typescripts have been preserved. Wells was working on many projects at the same time: he edited volumes of short stories for print, wrote literary reviews and essays on natural philosophy for newspapers and was also busy with a whole series of other science fiction novels, which were then known as Scientific Romances . Philmus thinks it's amazing that he still found time to completely rewrite the Moreau and prepare it for publication.

The first publication of material from the Moreau Complex happened in January 1895. Wells wrote a speculative essay on " The Limits of Individual Plasticity " (The Limits of Individual Plasticity) , which appeared on January 19, 1895 in Saturday Review . There he criticized the idea that living beings can only be understood from their genetic makeup, and put forward the argument that through surgical, chemical and psychological manipulation living beings, including humans, can be formed and changed to a very high degree. This text forms the core of the later chapter, Doctor Moreau explains , in which Moreau explains and justifies his actions to Prendick. Wells took entire passages of the essay almost verbatim in Moreau's lecture in the novel.


The book has been filmed three times so far. The first film was made in 1932 under the title Island of Lost Souls ( The island of lost souls ). The role of Dr. Moreau played Charles Laughton , and Dracula star Bela Lugosi made a small appearance as a monkey man. The film was a flop at the time, classified by Christian groups as blasphemous and only later recognized as a jewel of the horror genre. In 1977 a second film adaptation with Burt Lancaster as Dr. Moreau. The shipwrecked man was renamed Andrew Braddock and played by Michael York . The scientist's daughter was introduced as a new figure. This, like the third film adaptation by John Frankenheimer from 1996, was not a commercial success. This film adaptation is a modern version of the novel under the title DNA - Experiment des Wahnsinns . Marlon Brando played Dr. Moreau, Val Kilmer played Montgomery and David Thewlis played the narrator, albeit renamed Edward Dougles.

The 1959 film Terror is a Man is also inspired by the story, but without citing Wells as a reference.

The story of the novel is taken up under the title The Island of Doctor Monreau in an episode of the comic book Captain York by Roger Lecureux and Raffaele Carlo Marcello.

The book is parodied in a Halloween episode of the animated series "The Simpsons".

The English writer Guy Adams wrote a continuation of the story in 2011 under the title The Army of Dr. Moreau (2014 in German as The Army of Dr. Moreau , ISBN 978-3-8332-2873-5 ). He puts the story in the fictional universe of Sherlock Holmes , so that the story also represents one of the numerous Sherlock Holmes pastiches .



The first editions and critical editions with commentary and additional materials are mentioned.

  • The Island of Doctor Moreau. Heinemann, London 1896 (English first edition).
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau: A Possibility. Stone & Kimball, New York 1896 (American first edition).
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau: A Variorum Text. Edited by Robert Philmus . University of Georgia Press, Athens GA and London 1993.
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau: A Critical Text of the 1896 London Edition, with an Introduction and Appendices. Edited by Leon Stover . McFarland, Jefferson and London 1996.
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau . Edited by Patrick Parrinder , with an introduction by Margaret Atwood and annotations by Steven McLean. Penguin Classics, London 2005, ISBN 978-0-14-144102-3 .
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau. Edited by Mason Harris . Broadview Press, Peterborough 2009.


Secondary literature

General interpretations

  • Gorman Beauchamp: 'The Island of Dr Moreau' as Theological Grotesque . In: Papers on Language & Literature 15, 1979, pp. 408-417.
  • Roger Bowen: Science, Myth, and Fiction in HG Wells's 'Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: Studies in the Novel 8: 3, 1976, pp. 318-35.
  • Roger Bozzetto: Moreau's Tragi-Farcical Island . In: Science-Fiction Studies 20, 1993, pp. 34-44.
  • Bonnie Cross: But They Talk: Historical and Modern Mechanisms Behind the Beast Folk's Language in 'The Island of Dr. Moreau ' . In: Mise en Abyme: International Journal of Comparative Literature and Arts 1: 2, 2014, pp. 36–58.
  • Chris Danta: The Future Will Have Been Animal: Dr Moreau and the Aesthetics of Monstrosity . In: Textual Practice 26: 4, 2012, pp. 687-705.
  • John Glendening: 'Green Confusion': Evolution and Entanglement in HG Wells's 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: Victorian Literature and Culture 30: 2, 2002, pp. 571-597.
  • JR Hammond: 'The Island of Doctor Moreau': A Swiftian Parable . In: John S. Partington (Ed.): The Wellsian: Selected Essays on HG Wells . Equilibris, Oss 2003, pp. 45-54.
  • Mason Harris: Vivisection, the Culture of Science, and Intellectual Uncertainty in The Island of Doctor Moreau . In: Gothic Studies 4: 2, 2002, pp. 99-115.
  • Roslynn D. Haynes: The Unholy Alliance of Science in 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: John S. Partington (Ed.): The Wellsian: Selected Essays on HG Wells . Equilibris, Oss 2003, pp. 55-67.
  • Kimberly Jackson: Vivisected Language in HG Wells's 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: John S. Partington (Ed.): HG Wells's Fin-de-Siècle: Twenty-first Century Reflections on the Early HG Wells . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 27–40.
  • Pascale Krumm: 'The Island of Doctor Moreau', or the Case of Devolution . In: Foundation 75, 1999, pp. 51-62.
  • John McNabb: The Beast Within: HG Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Human Evolution in the Mid-1890s . In: Geological Journal 50: 3, 2015, pp. 383–397.
  • Robert M. Philmus: The Satiric Ambivalence of 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: Science Fiction Studies 8: 1, 1981, pp. 2-11.
  • Penelope Quade: Taming the Beast in the Name of the Father: The Island of Dr. Moreau and Wells's Critique of Society's Religious Molding . In: Extrapolation 48: 2, 2007, pp. 292-301.
  • John R. Reed: The Vanity of Law in 'The Island of Dr. Moreau ' . In: Patrick Parrinder and Christopher Rolfe (Eds.): HG Wells Under Revision . Associated University Presses, London 1990, pp. 134-144.
  • Carrie Rohman: Burning out the Animal: The Failure of Enlightenment Purification in HG Wells's 'The Island of Dr Moreau' . In: Mary S. Pollock and Catherine Rainwater (Eds.): Figuring Animals: Essays on Animal Images in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Popular Culture . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke NY 2005, pp. 121-34.
  • Nicoletta Vallorani: Hybridizing Science: The 'Patchwork Biology' of Dr. Moreau . In: cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens 46, 1997, pp. 245-261.

Source research

  • Norbert Lennartz: The Island of Doctor Moreau: HGWells Seen from the Byronic Perspective . In: Anglia - Journal for English Philology 125: 3, pp. 430–447.
  • Frances M. Malpezzi: Sons of Circe: Milton 's Comus and HG Wells's Dr. Moreau . In: Liberal and Fine Arts Review 4: 2, 1984, pp. 1-6.
  • Robert L. Platzner: HG Wells's 'Jungle Book': The Influence of Kipling on 'The Island of Doctor Moreau' . In: The Victorian Newsletter 36, 1969, pp. 19-22.
  • Elmar Schenkel : The wrong island: 'The Tempest' and HG Wells' 'The Island of Dr Moreau' . In: Anglia - Journal for English Philology 111, 1993, pp. 39-58.

Web links

Wikisource: The Island of Doctor Moreau  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. For a comparison of the three novel adaptations see: Daniele Jörg: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Dr. Moreau Goes to Hollywood . In: Public Understanding of Science 12: 3, 2003, pp. 297-305.
  2. Seeßlen / Jung: Horror , Schüren, Marburg 2006, p. 585
  3. Captain York