The Island of Dr. Moreau
by H. G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau Theme of Suffering
We all suffer, some of us more than others. For some, suffering is a painful existence of starving daily. For others, it's being without an Internet connection for a day—well, half a day, let's not get carried away here. The question is, how can we measure suffering? In the comparison above, it's pretty obvious who is truly suffering. But do animals feel pain just like humans; do they suffer like we do? Should one person suffer if it means ten won't have to? Given the vast scale of the universe, does our suffering even matter? Back in Wells' day, these questions were important but difficult to answer. And guess what? Today, we are no closer to answering them than we were back then. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try though, and The Island of Dr. Moreau is one way to jumpstart the discussion.
Questions About Suffering
- Why do you suppose Prendick's concern for the puma's suffering only surfaces when he thinks it's a human being vivisected? What does this tell us about Prendick?
- During the hunt, some of the Beast Folk enjoy the suffering of Leopard Man. Do we see any other characters enjoying the suffering of others in the novel? Who and when? Does this tell us anything about the these characters? Does it tell us anything about how we should think of suffering in the novel?
- What character do you think suffers the most in the novel? How do they suffer? Physically, mentally, emotionally?
- Think of a way people suffer in the world today. Can you find any suffering in the book related to that kind of suffering? If yes, what do you think the book says about this sort of suffering? If no, why do you think it was left out?
Chew on This
Moreau believes pain is meaningless because it's possible that "nowhere else does this thing called pain occur" (14.23). However, maybe pain's possible rarity in the universe is actually what makes it meaningful...
There are two types of suffering in The Island of Dr. Moreau: physical suffering, like the puma's, and social suffering, like Montgomery's. Which is worse is left ambiguous, but they do seem related in some way.