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THE SCIE NCE FICTION OF GENDER IN H.G. WELLS THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU By THOMAS G. COLE, II A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORID A IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010 1
2010 Thomas G. Cole, II 2
To my mother, who is no longer here, and to Pattye, who supports me in all that I do 3
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful for the help I have received on this thesis from both of my committee members. I especially want to thank Pamela K. Gilbert, for her kind support, throughout this project. I am also indebted to her critiques that pushed me in the direction that this thesis has taken. I would also like to thank Phillip Wegner for his contributions to making my writing clearer and stronger as well as his suggestions for further study and inquiry into SF. 4
TABL E OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDG MENTS..................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT .....................................................................................................................6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: A HISTORY AND FRAM EWORK................................................7 2 A REVIEW OF THE SCHOLARSHI P AND THE VALUE OF A SCIENCE FICTION PERS PECTIVE .......................................................................................14 3 THE NEW WOMAN IN THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU ..............................22 Feminine Geography ..............................................................................................24 The New Woman....................................................................................................31 The Rejected Femi nines Legacy ............................................................................37 4 EPILOGUE: THE FIN-DE-SI CLE AND WELLS FEMINISM.................................40 WORKS CI TED.............................................................................................................42 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................45 5
6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulf illment of the Requirements for the Degr ee of Master of Arts THE SCIENCE FICTION OF GENDER IN H.G. WELLS THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU By Thomas G. Cole, II August 2010 Chair: Pamela K. Gilbert Cochair: Phillip Wegner Major: English Although The Island of Doctor Moreau can be read as advancing charges of feminine animality and womens unrestrained sexuality, or that animals and women share a closer connection than do men to either these interpretations fail to incorporate an understanding of science fiction and the hi storical context of the woman question. This analysis of The Island of Doctor Moreau argues for a reading as science fiction, as reflecting contemporary popular science, and as commentary on the New Women of 1890s England. Wells story installs the feminine as a force disrupting the seemingly controlled laboratory island of Dr. Moreau. It also participates in the feminizing of the scientific object, and expresses mens fear of t he havoc that would be unleashed by an enfranchised New Woman. By understanding the relationship between the New Woman and The Island of Doctor Moreau we can better see English mens anxieties manifesting in contemporary popular science of Wells story and the anti-womens rights movement.
CHA PTER 1 INTRODUCTION: A HISTORY AND FRAMEWORK One of the important seri es of debates occurring in Britain during t he late 19th century concerned the women question. T he subjects of suffrage, property possession, marriage and womens biological nat ure were the topics of many of these debates. The prevailing contemporary view was based on both tradition and science, each often supporting the other Traditionally, women were understood to be caregivers and supportive spouses, whether this be to t heir own families or to their stations. Scientific writings, such as those of the first eugenicist, Francis Galton, confirmed such orthodox views by arguing that wom ens rightful place be reproduction and motherhood.1 Barred from higher education, contai ned within gender roles based upon theories of complementar ity, relegated to raising children and constrained to the home, women were forced to make louder demands for better rights. By the 1880s and 0s, women were writing essays and novels that appear ed in print, entreating a rethinking of what would eventually be ca lled the woman question. In her 1894 essay The New Aspect of the Woman Ques tion, Sarah Grand coined the phrase New Woman, a figure w hom many progressive women used to distinguish themselves from those women who clung to tradition. New Woman quickly became a catchphrase for pundits and suffragettes alike. The New Woman made such demands as the right to vote, the right to divorce, to have ca reers or merely a latchkey, a symbol of their ability to move freely out side the protection of family and home (Nelson xi). Though the image of the kn ickerbockers-clad bicyclist became the 1 See Francis Galtons Heredi tary Talent and Character, Macmillan Magazine XII (1865), 157. Excerpted from Galia Benzimans Challenging the Biological: The Fantasy of Male Birth as a Nineteenth-century Narrative of Ethical Failure. Womens Studies 35.4 (2006): 37595. 7
boilerplate icon, the New Woman read both lit erary novels and also politic al periodicals. She became the subject of satirical rhym es and comics, appearing in publications like Punch, but she also contributed answers or commentary to t he woman question. Although they were debarred from form al education, many New Women educated themselves, including in many of the sci ences (Fawcett 126). As Londa Schiebinger has noted, by the end of the 18th century, botany had become fashionable and appropriate for womens leisure hours (Natures 29, 37). Similarly, these New Women utilized scientific reasoning, drawn from Darwin, in their political discussions.2 Science in its various forms influenced many upper class people to the extent that several cultivated gardens or collect ed specimens or old curiosarchaeological trinkets, dissected insects or fossiliz ed bones. In a word, science was popular (Schiebinger 3). Its popularity can likewise be seen from the fact that the first scientific romances were published in the 1800s (Jam es 27). Beginning with Mary Shelleys Frankenstein in the s, through Jules Vernes nov els in the s, and culminating H.G. Wells romances in the s, science fiction had come to a definite fruition in fin-desicle Britainthough the term science fict ion would not appear until the 1920s (28). Science fiction, itself, is a difficult genre to define, as many have argued.3 Indeed, attempts to define the genre retroactivel y often become bogged down in taxonomic rules that need continual tweaking. They c an also be presentist. What we, as scholars, 2 One woman, H.E. Harvey, writing in The Westminster Review in 1897 and explicitly drawing from Darwinian findings and logic, claims, I think anyone w ho looks at social questions from a scientific point of view will admit that the only right which we really recognize is the right of the strongest. See H.E. Harveys Science and the Right s of Women. Aug. 1897. A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s Ed. Carolyn Christensen Nelson. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2001. 168. Recognizing existing power regimes, Harveys observation demonstrates that science informed not merely specialized branches of knowledge but also some womens quotidian lexicons. 3 For example, see Phillip Wegners Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. pp. 410. 8
must do, then, is accept that science fict ion, rather than being cont ained within a specific epoch, utilizes a constellation of conv entions in order to disguise its message. As David Seed writes in Anticipations a collected set of essays about science fiction in the 19th century, Science fiction is deeply embedded in the historical processes of technological and political change (xv). Seed suggests, as do others in this collection, that science fiction takes place in an altered space or an altered timetwo of the most important distinctions in most science fiction. With this tripartite definition of space, time and techno-political change, I offer one st ory for closer inspection: H.G. Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). The Island of Doctor Moreau has often been included within the genre of science fiction, notably in Darko Suvins Victorian Science Fiction in the UK It has also been viewed as a Gothic text. Again, the taxonomies fail for legitima ting what fits where, yet I do want to acknowledge (and will return to) The Island of Doctor Moreau s Gothic quality. The Island of Doctor Moreau also concerns the two subjects I have touched on thus far: popular science and the New Wom an. Reflecting contemporary discussions in the political and scientific communities, re lating to the gendering of taxonomies and medical practices as well as the ar guments over the woman question, Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau steeped in popular science, portrays a fin-de-sicle reaction to the changing geography of womens rights vis--vis the New Woman. Wells text utilizes science fiction to offe r political ripostes to the woman question debate. The text implicitly argues for t he consequences of a continued stasis of womens rights and also demonstrates the anxiety produced by a politically empowered New Woman, which might disrupt the cont emporary and masculine order. The novella 9
too suggests that a change in the right s of w omen will occurhowever much enfranchised men may detest it. Since the text is relatively short, I would like to refresh readers as to the plot of the story. The Island of Doctor Moreau opens with a prologue wri tten by the nephew of the protagonist, who situates his uncles story, geographically and historically (space and time, respectively). We then meet the protagonist, Edward Prendick, aboard a lifeboat after his ship, the Lady Vain has sunk off of the west coast of South America. After being afloat for ten days, Prendi ck is taken aboard a passing ship, the Ipecacuanha and is told by Dr. Montgomery that they are deliver ing a menagerie of exotic animals to an unnamed island. Prendick also meets Montgomerys assistant, a humanoid figure named Mling, for whom Pr endick feels immediate revulsion. When they arrive at the island, Mont gomery introduces Prendick to a strange, white-clad man who offers him a room in his camp. Barred from the interior of the camp from where an awful and pained howling commenc es, Prendick finally places the man in white: he is Dr. Moreau, an os tracized vivisectionist who fl ed England. Driven into the jungle by the shrieks, Prendick discovers creatures that resemble a hybrid humananimal form. Prendick returns to the camp, begging for info rmation about the creatures from a reluctant Montgomery. The next mo rning, noticing the latch has been left unlocked, Prendick treads into the central mo st part of the camp and discovers Moreau operating on another human-like creature. Suspecting that Moreau now vivisects humans, and fearing that he will be next, Prendick escapes into the jungle only to be subsequently hunted by Moreau. After much coaxing from Moreau, Prendick meets the doctor back in his camps enclosure to discuss what he has seen. 10
In a longer chapter of the novella, Mo reau explains that he cares only for discovery in creating humans from animals Prendick accepts Moreaus pos ition and enterprise as normal. Eventual ly, the Leopard Man, one of the Beast Folk, eats flesha law expressly forbidden by both Moreau, whom the Beast Folk have deified, and the Sayer of the Law, one of Moreaus creatur es. The Leopard Man must thus return to Moreaus table in the House of Pain. Howeve r, feeling pity for the creature, Prendick shoots the Leopard Man, infuriating Mor eau. Weeks pass and one morning, suddenly, the puma whom Moreau has arduously been vivi sectingthe same figure Prendick first discoveredbreaks free, fleeing into the w oods. Moreau and Montgomery chase after her. She is the only prominent female figure in the novella. Montgomery is found dead in fr ont of the enclosure, as are Moreau and the puma in the jungle, the two apparent ly having mortally wounded each other. Prendick remains on the island for a span of ten months, alone with the creatures. In this time, he sees many of the Beast Folk revert back to their animal nature; he also fashions a makeshift raft. He leaves the island and is rescued by a passing ship. He tries to relate his experiences, but the crew assumes he is m ad. Once back in England, Prendick fears the people in London are actually the Beast Folk and moves into the country to live out the rest of his life. Although The Island of Doctor Moreau can be read as advancing charges of feminine animality and womens unrestrained sexuality, or that animals and women share a closer connection than do men to either these interpretations fail to incorporate both an understanding of science fiction and t he historical context of the woman question. Thus, my project offers an analysis of The Island of Doctor Moreau as science 11
fiction, as reflecting contemporary popular science, and as commentary on the woman question and the New Women. In chapter tw o, I examine the more recent scholarship on The Island of Doctor Moreau Most of the recent criticism has failed to deal with these books as science fiction textsor, if they do so, they do so only in a cursory mannerI also provide a discu ssion of the importance as to why the label science fiction is important. In the third chapter, I address directly The Island of Doctor Moreau as it relates to the gendering of science and medicine. Since the 18th century, science categorically eliminated women both as pr actitioners and from its intellectual aims (Schiebinger 3). However, in this period it s object of study became ever more feminine. Due to the conspicuous absence of any human female characters, I argue, as have others, that a feminine elem ent surfaces in the guise of the puma. However, to this thesis I add that that the feminines resurgence extends to the geography of the island as well as the language used to describe the islands primitiv e nature. Embedded within Wells prose, we can perceive aspec ts of a gendered system of cataloguing the natural world. The very act of going in to the woods and colle cting and recording specimens takes a gendered form: a female obj ect in the hands of a male scientist. Furthermore, the text exemp lifies the gendering of women and nature that characterized much of the contemporary debate over the New Woman. The puma, read as the New Woman, breaks free from the manacles of Moreaus workshop of pain and meets her detractor on a level ground. She refuses to remain shackled to the socio-scientific hypotheses. Wells story installs the feminine as a force disrupting the seemingly controlled laboratory island of Dr. Moreau. It also participates in the feminizing of the scientific 12
13 object, and expresses mens fear of t he havoc that would be unleashed by an enfranchised New Woman. Theref ore, in the fourth and fi nal chapter, I conclude by looking to Wells own political standing vis--vis the womens movement. By understanding the relationshi p between the New Woman and The Island of Doctor Moreau we can better see English mens anx ieties manifesting in contemporary popular science of Wells story and the anti-womens rights movement.
CHA PTER 2 A REVIEW OF THE SCHOLARSHIP AND T HE VALUE OF A SCIENCE FICTION PERSPECTIVE The Island of Doctor Moreau s popularity has remained strong enough to garner three film adaptations and numerous literary discussions. Ho wever, compared to H.G. Wells other early tales, it receives less attention, and due to its seemingly amorphousness, critics like Roger Bozzetto and Mason Harris descry its kaleidoscopic value for scholars and readers alike to in tuit numerous face ts of the story.1 Others have approached the text from a postc olonial perspective, tracing out the implicit racialization in the novella. Timothy Christensen, for exam ple, insists that Moreaus Law in the story becomes a performative act, valoriz ed by race as a structuring mechanism.2 Other critics offer a psychoanalytic analysi s, reducing the jungle to a monstrous feminine that engulfs the white male protagoni sts, somewhat akin Elaine Showalters essay The Apocalyptic Fables of H. G. We lls to which I will return shortly. Roger Bowen identifies mythic qualities of The Island of Doctor Moreau postulating it as an updated Circe myth. Gorman Beauchamp reads it as autobiography, relating it to Wells childhood view of God. Beauchamp also i dentifies an argument about the natural character of man and the artificial aspect humans create in society.3 Sherryl Vint reads the text as an animal rights tale, one whic h connects to current discussions of the 1 See Roger Bozzetto, R. M. P. and Russell Ta ylors Moreaus Tragi-Farcical Island. Science Fiction Studies 20.1 (Mar 1993): 34. See also Mason Harris Viv isection, the Culture of Science, and Intellectual Uncertainty in The Island of Doctor Moreau Gothic Studies 4.2 (2002): 99. These two articles claim, as well as cite other authors claims, that The Island of Doctor Moreau s message or aim remains difficult to decipher. 2 See Timothy Christensens The Bestial Mark of Race in The Island of Dr. Moreau Criticism 46.4 (Fall 2004): 575595. 3 See Roger Bowens Science, Myth, and Fiction in H. G. Wellss Island of Dr. Moreau Studies in the Novel 8.3 (Fall 1976): 318-335. See also Gorman Beauchamps The Island of Dr. Moreau as Theological Grotesque. Papers on Language and Literature 15.4 (Fall 1979): 40817. 14
issue.4 Still others argue for its Gothic credentials situating it in the long line of 19thcentury male birth tales. Often, The Island of Doctor Moreau fits into critics essays as a small example subordinated to their larger focus on another text. Steven Lehman provides a psychoanalytic reading that focuses on Mary Shelleys Frankenstein and The Island of Doctor Moreau addressed momentarily in an addendum Because Shelley lost her own child shortly after giving birth, like her mother who died soon after Mary was born, Lehman perceives Shelleys motivation writing Frankenstein as growing out of an inability to procreate and incorporates male womb envy into the texts purport. He asserts, [I]t addresses the narcissistic inju ry suffered by a young male regarding his incapacity for childbirth (50). The Island of Doctor Moreau is treated merely as an 1890s echo to male womb envy. Whereas many critics, like Lehman, avoid any discussion of women or plunge it in larger defenses of masculinity, others like Galia Benz iman, Coral Lansbury and Elaine Showalter deals more directly with what might be called the feminist issues of the text. Benziman offers an interpretation that closely resembles Lehmans; however, Benzimans methodology is arguably different. Employing the historical framework of the rise of gynecology, as well as historic izing three texts in the Gothic tradition ( Frankenstein The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Island of Doctor Moreau ), Benziman argues for a feminization of these tales vision of science. Because Drs. Frankenstein, Jekyll and Moreau aim to re-produce a child without the help of a woman, their tasks necessitate a constant trial-and-error method of operation, thereby 4 See Sherryl Vints Animals and Animality from the Island of Moreau to the Uplift Universe. The Yearbook of English Studies 37.2. (July 2007): 8502. 15
resulting in a self-reflexiv e definition of themselves. Benziman enumerates the latency of the self-reflexivity in the earlier 19th-century stories and its increased emergence in the centurys later tales. Again, however, Benziman aligns his reading with both Gothic conventions and a male-centered interpretation. Coral Lansbury, in her book The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers, and Vivisection in Edwardian England links the vivisected animal, the working class, and feminists of fin-de-sicle Britain toget her as an oppressed group under the aegis of imperial-minded Englishmen. She devotes a chapter to fictions of vivisection, including The Island of Doctor Moreau [P]rogression from cruelty to animals to the murder of women was consistently used as a theme by male novelists, Lansbury maintains, and she views the puma in The Island of Doctor Moreau as a conflation of the worker, feminist and vivisected animal, who all re fuse to submit (143). Showalter, too, apprehends the puma as the New Wo man. Her essay illuminates The Island of Doctor Moreau s Gothic milieu and continues a psychoanalytic approach. She provides a cursory analysis of The Island of Doctor Moreau primarily making use of its cannibalistic and human experimentation t aboos, while simultaneously arguing, as others have done, that it exemp lifies the imperial gothic.5 Much of my reading of the puma as the New Woman has been touched upon by critics like Lansbury and Showalte r. However, they do not treat this as one of the main foci of their argument, often giving it only a paragraph or tw o. Likewise, most of them approach The Island of Doctor Moreau as a Gothic text. Mason Harris agrees with 5 As others have done, Showalter quotes Patrick Brantlingers Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. 16
David Punters assessment of The Island of Doctor Moreau as a ty pical Gothic text (Harris 99; Punter 13). Punter defines the Gothic in this way: In the first place, it seems to me impossible to make much sense out of Gothic fiction without continual recourse to the concept of paranoia. Second, Gothicis intimately to do with the notion of the barbaric. This emerges in a number of forms: as fear of the pastas fear of the aristocracyas fear of racial degeneracyand more recently as fear of the barbaricin the future. And third, I have tried throughout to draw attention to the very wide-ranging c oncern among Gothic writers with the nature of taboo. (183) Punters definition of the Gothic seems more in line with science fiction than one might first believe. Indeed, Brian Aldiss writes, Science fiction is the search for a definition of mankind and his status in the universe wh ich will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (Science), and is characterist ically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mode (qtd. in Seed ix). Thus, we can observe a crisscrossing of genre lines such that where Punter sees Gothic, Al diss finds science fiction. What seems more relevant though to point out is that Punter, beginning with the very title of his book, The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day, vastly expands the Gothic timeline. He does not distinguish the Victorian Gothic from what might be called a post-Victorian Gothic. For others, the latter is in fact science fiction. In regard to his second criterion of Gothic, Punter determines, Time and time again, those writ ers who are referred to as Go thic turn out to be those who bring us up against the boundaries of the civilized, who demonstrate to us the relative nature of ethical and behavioural codes, who place, over against the conventional world, a different sphere in which these codes operate at best in distorted forms (183). This type of definition oft en also fits science fiction. David Seed, 17
paraphrasing Brian Nellist, concludes, Science fiction repeatedly looks forward so as to look back (xiii). Again, we find ourselves entrenched in a genre battle. I emphasize science fiction over the Gothic for an important reason. If we read The Island of Doctor Moreau as a text about a w hite man on an island in the Pacific or about the barbarism of vivisection, we can certainl y make the argument that many have made regarding its postcolonial attributes or psychosocial taboos. Yet what these interpretations fail to bring to bear is the emphasis Wells places on its contemporary setting. In this context, vivi section is closely related to 1890s feminism, and, therefore, feminism is by that very fact implicated. Sc ience fiction thus offers a fuller understanding of the storys external rhetorical situation, something that some critics have yet to grasp. The manner in which we can apprehend this cl aim is through the definition of science fiction as involving distortions in time and space that herald socio-scientific change. Though some have suggested this text is a science fiction, they have neither answered why nor substantia ted the reason for their ch oice. I conjecture that The Island of Doctor Moreau fits within Fredric Jamesons schem a of science fiction, a schema that adds breadth to the descriptions that Al diss, Seed and others have already provided. Specifically concerning the narrative form, Jameson asserts, Yet such narrative categories [i.e., cons tituent parts of t he narrative form] are themselves fraught with contradiction: in order for narrative to project some closure (a narrative must have an ending, even if it is ingeniously organized around the structur al repression of endings as such). At the same time, however, closure or the na rrative ending is the mark of that boundary or limit beyond which thought cann ot go. The merit of SF is to dramatize this contradicti on on the level of plot itself, since the vision of future history cannot know any punct ual ending of this kind, at the same time that its novelistic expressi on demands some such ending. (283) The Island of Doctor Moreau adheres nicely to Jamesons de scription, as it perplexes a normal narrative arc in more ways than one. 18
The Island of Doctor Moreau opens with narrative confusion. This book is written from the point of view of the main character, Edward Pr endick; yet Prendick does not initiate the story. The first section, entitled Introduction, is a frame narrative and written by Prendicks nephew. The two authorial vo ices force the reader to grapple with a grafted text: a characteristic that equally epitomizes Mor eaus experiments. The nephew writes, The following narrative was f ound among his papers by the undersigned, his nephew and heir, but una ccompanied by any definite reques t for publication (Wells, Making 174). That the nephew pub lishes his uncles story wit hout the definite request for publication suggests that Prendick di d not want to be around when his story became public. I will return to this issue shortl y. Immediately at the outset, however, the reader is confronted with the author, the narrator and the editor, and their diverse intentions. The Island of Doctor Moreau takes the form of a flashback by the protagonist. This flashback colors the entire story, making it a doubly framed narrative. Often jarring the reader out of the present of the story, Prendick offers prefatory co mments to the action, annotations to the events, and endno tes on what has just happened. Thus, we confront a story constantly in revision, inaugurated by th ree competing storylines, the nephews and the uncles past and present. Readers also learn from the nephews prologue that a ship recently visited the isla nd, finding no trace of what Prendick claims. The entirety of the story, then, occurs outside hi storical time and before the chronological time of its composition. It also occurs in a place that retains no verifiable evidence of the narrative. 19
Oddly enou gh, this is what Pr endick fears: that he will get his story wrong, that he will leave out some salient detail that leav es his reader confused or prone to discount his story. Clarity is essential to the telling of this tale, for when he is rescued and relates his story of the disturbing island, his resc uers suspect he might be insane: Neither the captain nor the mate would believe my story, judging that solitude and danger had made me mad; and fearing their opinion might be that of other s, I refrained from telling my adventure further (102). Therefore, when Prendick later recounts his time spent on the island he wants to tell the truth s oberly and anonymously so as to avoid any unwanted scrutiny.6 What we find within the storys form is t he evidence of an unstable storyline. In their attempts to create an account that is both legitimate and coherentone that could serve as a scientific treatise or reliable acco unt of the factsthey actually call more attention to the nature of it s constructedness. The aim for supreme order, characteristic of a scientific mode, falls flat, thereby rev ealing the various parts that constitute the story. Indeed, The Island of Doctor Moreau s constructedness lends it more to Jamesons designation. He writes, this ultimate text or object of studyis a construct : it exists nowhere in empirical form, and therefore must be re-constructed on the basis of empirical texts of all sorts (ori ginal emphasis, 283). Because there can be no master narrative suggests that The Island of Doctor Moreau is science fiction. Moreover, if we reflect back to Seeds definit ion, the distortions of time and space are 6 This is another characteristic of science fiction according to Patrick Parrinder: A catastrophe is an occurrence of such magnitude that it can only be confirmed retrospectively. It needs and audience, or at least a sole surviving interpreter (61). S ee Patrick Parrinder, From Mary Shelley to The War of the Worlds : The Thames Valley Catastrophe. Anticipations. Ed. David Seed. Liverpool: Syracuse University Press, 1995. 584. 20
21 also in play in The Island of Doctor Moreau Jameson reiterates the third condition of the time, space and techno-political tri angle that Seed recommended: the different political environment that the defamiliariza tion assumes via its play with technologies (also in the sense of techne). Jameson writes, SF has concealed another, far more complex temporal structure: not to give us images of the futurebut rather to defamiliarize and restructure out experience of our own present and to do so in specific ways distinct from all other forms of defamiliarization (286) As I will argue, the New Woman is the tenor to the Moreau vehi cle; yet the debates surrounding the woman question are not obvious in the text. It is thus my intention to clarify the ambiguities of the text, working within the one difference between science fiction and Realism: that the full presencethe settings and actions to be renderedare the merely possible and conceivable ones of a near or far future (286). Thus, it is Jamesons definition of science fiction that makes clear a fuller reading of The Island of Doctor Moreau in regard to its feminist issuesan understand ing of it as Gothic does not afford.
CHA PTER 3 THE NEW WOMAN IN THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR M OREAU H.G. Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau is part Victorian adventure novel, part dystopian prophecy, part scientific discourse part satire, part Gothic, part science fiction, and a host of others. As a text, it resists easy taxonomic work, and as with its crisscrossing of genres, the mult itudinous aims of Wells in writing this rather painful text seem to diverge in several, unclear wa ys (Wells qtd. in Bozzetto 34). One thing, however, is certainly evident: Wells desire to express [his] vision of the aimless torture in creation (Wells, Seven ix). The painful quality that Wells implicates is torture. The book is a harrowing tale of an array of tortures, includi ng loneliness, vivisection, psychological agony, and other violences. Indeed, Wells warned his readers that they should not begin to read his works with The Island of Doctor Moreau pointing to his youthful blasphemy in writing it (Bozzetto 34; Wells, Seven ix). Wells writes, the universe projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time (ix). The unive rse that surrounded him was one entrenched in wars of politics and science over the rights of animals and over the rights of women. The story of The Island of Doctor Moreau is conspicuous for its lack of women. There is an obvious abundance of animals that appear to be human living in a landscape controlled by white European men that is gendered female. Following in a long line of Gothic literature, inaugurated by the first mad scientist tale of Victor Frankenstein, The Island of Doctor Moreau continues a tradition of imagining mans attempt to reproduce without the aid of women. The notion of a womanless birth crept into the hopes of the masculine arena of science early in the 19th century, a 22
development also contemporaneous to the in creasing medicalizatio n of the human body and the gendering of the natural world. Bec ause anything part of or affecting the body was thought to be scientifically controllable, the body, and, especially the feminine body, became a place of intense examination and a locus whereon manly science could stake its dominion. Its aim was to tame it through torture. Hoping to emulate what they found in nature, while simultaneously trying to eliminate the need for women, scientific thinkers boldly usurped what had until then been thought of as the natural order. With the faith that sc ience could fix any problem found in nature and could rival the natural world in any type of creation, women and animals came be viewed less as subjects and more as objects of study (Benziman 381). A prominence of women within the scientific community of England or much of continental Europe woul d not occur until the 20th century. Thus, much of the medicine practiced came from a masculine point of view. This is the backdrop to Wells story. Like the scientific co mmunity of Europe, The Island of Doctor Moreau offers a world without any women human women, that is. The only women that populate the nameless island are among Mo reaus hybrid forms that defy classification, mirroring the texts problematic genre. The Island of Doctor Moreau s rejection of the feminine and its substitu tion of a male-domi nated, homosocial order mirrored the ideological push occurring throughout the 18th and 19th century (Schiebinger Natures 9). The feminine, I argue, reemerges in at least two places in The Island of Doctor Moreau : in the geography of the island and in the catastrophic end of Moreaus experiment. Because nature and women are lin ked within the novellas ideology, the 23
feminine return comments upon the ideology of science in the 19th century, as well as the contemporary discourse on womens righ ts. The feminine appears through and with the aid of naturethrough the animals upon whom Moreau conducts his horrific experiments, through the geograp hy of the island, and, finally, through a distressing and elusive something that Moreau and Prendick simultaneously fear and hate. These are figures for the New Woman, barred from sci ence and education, yet who will not remain content in the domestic sphere. The choice of the settings along with the attempt at male birth via scientific study further substantiates this r eading of the feminized Other Though scholarship of male birth in relation to Gothic literature has burgeoned in the past few decades, what I would like to offer in this essay also brings an ecofeminist edge and a postcolonial-influenced interpretation to a science fiction text. Rather than limiting an analysis to a feministoriented psychoanalytic perspective, this chapter attempts to demonstrate that geography and nature become ali gned with the feminine, and thereby revolt against the prevailing view of them as me re objects of manipulation. Feminine Geography What seems different about the island is not readily apparent. The reader learns of a white male scientist who experiments upon hum anoid creatures on a thinly veiled isle of Galapagos, for the location of the island following Prendicks descriptions of his ships routes, is very near Galapagos. In effect, The Island of Doctor Moreau functions as a microcosm of British imperialismwith a white Eur opean governor and his colonial subjectsbut also reenacts t he setting of a would-be naturalist going into the wild to record, collect samples, and experiment in the field. Furthermore even the description of the islands geography offers more t han just a landscape. Prendick provides an 24
ekphrasis of what he sees: coming into a broad bay flanked on either hand by a low promontory, Prendick appears in the embrace of a large, spread pair of legs (Wells, Island 17). He writes, It was lo w, and covered with thick v egetation, he then looks up to a ridge, perhaps sixty or se venty feet above the sea-leve l, and [h]alf way up [there] was a square enclosure[t]wo th atched roofs [that] peeped from within this enclosure, noting only the parts that woul d refer to female sexuality, namely the vagina and breasts (17).1 That the man-made structures, the only nonnatural blight on t he horizon, are the breasts substantiates Londa Schiebingers claim regarding the gendering of Linnaean taxonomies, especially those of mammals Though Carl Linnaeus could have chosen many other characteristics fo r the class that would become mammalia argues Schiebinger, he selected the breast, the mamma as the definitive mark: his focus on the breast responded to broader cultural and political trends, namely, the wet-nursing debates of the late 18th century (53). Schiebinger point s out, further, that the term mammalia ties humans to brutes, while a tradition ally male characteristic (reason)as in man of reason ( Homo sapiens )marks our separateness [from brutes] (55). Thus, the gendering of science and animals gets refracted into Prendicks descriptions of the island. The island, a natural environmen t, comes under the cont rol of a camp, a constructed indicator of the civilizers exis tence. Wells island becomes feminine with a peculiarly European mark of science. 1 I want to acknowledge that my reading of the feminine island is similar to Anne McClintocks analysis of a map in H. Rider Haggards King Solomons Mines See McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest New York: Routledge, 1995. 13. 25
Elaine Showalter has also suggested that Prendick s description of the island Presently the ground gave, rich and oozy, under my feetmarks it as feminine (Wells, Island 46; Showalter 80). Like the previous passage about the thatched roofs, this sentence alludes to an interpretation of the landscape as feminine. The thick vegetation of the first pa ssage appears again when Prendick decides to wander into it. He writes, I strode th rough the undergrowth that clothed the ridge behind the house, scarcely heeding whither I went; passed on through the shadow of a thick cluster of straight-stemmed trees beyond itdescending towards a st reamlet that ran through a narrow valley (emphasis mine, Wells, Island 26). This entrance into the vaginal passage of the geography foregrounds the fe minization of the island and Prendicks access into the gendered feminine world. This island soon becomes the focal point of the novella, a place where a mad doctor colonizes his little band of manufac tured natives. Roger Bozzetto writes, Moreau locates itself in the direct line of polemics concerning the right to colonize and to civilize by forceentire peoples on the pretext of thei r being (technologically) inferior (34). What the readers come to discover is a tale that cautions against an imperialist, scientific hegemony that views nature and women as tools for tinkering. In order for the reading of t he island as imperial colony or feminine body to work within a science fiction perspective, one must remember that science fiction defamiliarizes what is commonplace and recast s it in a strange new light (Jameson 286). Thus, the New Woman debate, too, gets embedded into this bizarre isle of horrors. Though the New Woman is not yet in Parliament, the university, hospital or laboratory, she is aris ing in the environment ar ound the white European men, 26
Montgomery, Prendick and Moreau. The clearest mark to signal these readings is the feminine body. That the first image of the island take s the form of the fe male body, on that foreshadows Moreaus experimentation on anot her female body instantiates a general focus on female bodies in the geographic en vironments of the novella. We first apprehend the gesture toward bodies and geography in the introduction when we learn that Prendick sets sail from the port Call ao, a guano port in Peru, near Lima (Wells, Making 174). After the Lady Vain another feminine setting, sinks Prendick is rescued by another ship called Ipecacuanha the name of a drug that induces vomiting. It is this combination of the uncanny, in reference to the threatening, feminine landscape of the island, and the forceful nausea that commences the story, which according to Kelley Hurley makes the reader aware of ulterior me aning (104). Whether it be the faces of the creatures that Prendick cannot describe or the foreboding island itself, there is something else looming just below t he surface, waiting to break out. We learn that Prendicks fi rst ship was named the Lady Vain Though we never see the beginning of his journey, we do get an account of w hat happened before the encounter with Moreau. Prendick begins, I do not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the Lady Vain As everyone knows, she collided with a derelict when ten days out from Callao (Wells, Island 1). We learn that the boat on which Prendick wa s sailing, whose name denotes an ostentatious or arrogant woman, sunk when it hit another boat, one abandoned by its crew. The derelict boat as well as the Lady Vain functions here as foreshadowing of the eventual derelict laboratory island of Dr. Moreau and as a symbol of technology gone awry. This 27
technology vicious ly hits and sinks the Lady thus quite literally suppressing the female symbol, much like the scientific community in Britain treated women and the feminine more generally. The camp, too, gets destroyed when Prendick later tips over a lantern and sets a fire that ra zes it to the ground. Jane Caputi has suggested that there is an ongoing war carried out under patriarchy against feminine symbols or forms ( Goddesses 315). That Lady Vain is the first casualty of The Island of Doctor Moreau signals an aggressiveness in the narrative for the feminine. The contempt for women that is seen in The Island of Doctor Moreau becomes even more apparent as the story pr ogresses. Cast from the safety of the Lady Vain Prendick is forced into a dinghy with two other men and one flask of water in the endless ocean (Wells, Island 1). Prendick continues, T he longboat [of the Lady Vain ], with seven of the crew, was picked up eighteen days after [the sinking]and the story of their terrible privations has become quite as well known as the far more horrible Medusa case (1). Here, we learn that t he conditions of the other lifeboat are comparable to the Medusa, a ship whose life raft harbored survivors that eventually resorted to cannibalism. Prendick and his two fe llow survivors also contemplate drawing straws to see who will become the cannibali zed, something Prendick alludes to when he writes, The water ended on the fourth day, and we were already thinking strange things and saying them with our eyes (2). Thus thrown into nature, much like Kurtz in Joseph Conrads The Heart of Darkness these men resort to ca nnibalism or revert to animalistic tendencies. The backward movement from human to anima l also becomes a topic of study for Moreau. When Prendick arrives on the island and even after he leaves, the language he 28
uses to describe himself casts him as anima l. At one point, he falls out of the hammock, which deposited me upon allfours on the floor, and late r eats food [that] contributed to the sense of animal comfort w hich I experienced (34). Later when he discovers Moreaus torture of animals, the inhumane treatment he afford s his creatures, a frightened Prendick runs off and is eventual ly cornered and caught by Moreau: he literally becomes the hunted animal. To ev ade Moreau, he must hi de in the undergrowth of the island and, at one point, suffers inju ry, a torn and bleed ing ear (47). Indeed the diction lends Prendick animal qualities, and the plot likewise forces him to scurry through the tropical forest, cutting himself, cr awling on all-fours, eventually [falling] in with these monsters [i.e., the victims of Moreaus experiments] ways (95). Even later, after he has been saved and is back in Engl and, he remembers, I too must have undergone strange changes. My clot hes hung about me as yellow rags, through whose rents showed the tanned skin. My hair grew long, and became matted together. I am told that even now my eyes have a strange br ightness, a swift alertness of movement (98). Once safely returned to England, he still exhibits animalistic inclinations. This switch to animal only occurs once Prendick goes to the islanda womanless ersatz society. Moreover, the predispos ition toward the animal is w hat Moreau finds difficult to eradicate from his creations. Just as Pr endick becomes more animalistic in his motor functions due to his experiences on the is land, Moreau equally ca nnot control all aspects of his experiments. This is especially the case when the feminine attacks. Mason Harris argues the one of the horrors of The Island of Doctor Moreau lies in its connection to the real debates about vivi section in the 1890s. Moreaus indelible thirst for science and his methods would be an all too common image for Wells readers. 29
Charges of godlessness and sadism characte rized the staunchest anti-vivisec tionists criticism. Because opposition to vivise ction was often associated with a religious hostility toward science, many of the critiques contained suggestions of immorality on the part of these male godless Darwinists who enjoyed inflicting pain (Harris 100). The latter included Wells teacher T.H. Huxl ey. Sympathy for the animal, sympathy for the subject of medical scrutiny, focused on the amount of pain the object of science had to endure for the scientist to procure his knowledge. Bodily pain then was a motivating factor in forging the anti-vivisectionist movement. Moreover, a majority of antivivisectionists were women. As Coral Lansbury has argued in her book The Old Brown Dog these women saw the plight of the vivi sected animal as comparable to their own struggle against a male-dominat ed Britain. Frances Power C obbe, founder of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, was also a suffragette. Thus, anti-vivisectionists and feminists frequently were one and the same. Though The Island of Doctor Moreau is explicitly about the woes of vivisection, it also a participates in discussions of 19th century science and politics, and the lesson that the text teaches is that [p]atriarchal men, whatever t heir intentions or pretensions, cannot control the process of mutation; and change, or mutation, is, after all, essential to life (original emphasis, Caputi, Gossips 276). Another lesson is that nature becomes gendered in the hands of male scientists. Though these patriarchal men attempt to describe nature accurately and objecti vely, their science becomes unavoidably ideological. They import thei r prejudices about women into their scientific findings, for they wanted to see, Schiebinger notes, nature as the guiding light for social reform (4). But nature and society do not necessarily match up with sciences interests. 30
The New Woman According to Galia Benziman, The inventio n of gynecology at the beginning of the [19th] century led to what historians of medicine sometimes refer to as the medicalization of the female body (378). T he notion of women as objects thus emerged not only from the social or political context but also from the medical one. As objects of study, a larger distance between the female subject and the male scientist opened up. The same manner in which women were relegated to specific places, namely, sequestered in the home, and forced to perform only the chores associated with childrearing and the household, extended to science and medi cine. Schiebinger writes, For the most part, academic study of se xual differences was designed to keep women in their place (Schiebinger, Has 112). In this experimental medicine, they were still placed in subordinate positions (Harris 100). The perspective of conquering the woman physically and overcoming nat ures quandaries through science links woman and nature together, especially in the wa y men of science viewed them. This power dynamic appears not only in the science of the time but also in political debates over the New Woman. Mu ch like one anti-vivisectionist and feminists claim that from a scientific viewpoint one must attest t hat strength structures social power, Mona Cairds essay entitled Marriage, publish ed in 1888 in a prominent periodical, The Westminster Review participates in the discussion of womens nature as rendered from the viewpoint of science (Harvey 168). She writes, There is no social philosophywhich does not lapse into incoherence as soon as it touches the subject of women. The thinker abandons thought-laws which he has obeyed until that fatal moment; he forgets every principle of scienc e previously present to his mind (186). Caird here identifies what Schiebinger similarly notes almost a hundred years later: In 31
many cases, ancient prejudices were me rely translated into the language of modern science ( Natures 38). Modern science became a contri butor to the orthodox view that women ought not partake in voting, educati on or the countrys business in general. Modern science thus took the project of conquering a feminized nat ure. Caird, a feminist and an anti-vivisectionist, utilizes a well-known dog metaphor in her essay, linking women and animals together in order to illustrate the illogical stance men have taken toward womens rights. We chain up a dog to keep watch over our home, she insists, we deny him freedom, and in some cases, alas! even sufficient exercise to keep his limbs supple and his body in health (186). Caird recasts the woman question, conflated here with the dogs dilemma, as a question of humanity and decency: Humane people ask [the dogs] master: Why do you keep that dog always chained up? (187). The logic of Caird derives from her position as woman and antivivisectionist and bonds women to nature: she sees both as the inferior target in masculine Britains science and politics. Science also provided another men wit h another benefit, argues Steven Lehman: Science, as a controllable stand-in for the role of (female) spouse, could provide a vessel for the germination of the future hopes of men without the emotional risks run in relationships with women (55). Married to sci ence, the scientific thinker could still view his work as something conquerable. We see th is theme at work in Wells depiction of Moreaus scientific labor. In one of the most important chapters, entitled Dr. Moreau Ex plains, we learn Moreaus reasoning as to his experiments. Prendick first remonstrates Moreau for his gruesome actions, making the same arguments that anti-vivisectionists leveled at 32
scientists. Howev er, Prendick eventually acc epts the fact that Moreaus impetus is scientific whimsy but also an insatiable desire to conquer that which plagues him. He says, So for twenty years altogethercount ing nine years in EnglandI have been going on; and there is still something in everything I do that defeats me, makes me dissatisfied, challenges me to further e ffort. Sometimes I rise above my level, sometimes I fall below it; but a lways I fall short of the things I dream (58). This desire to triumph indicates both a patriarchal and scien tific form of dominat ionsomething that becomes commensurate in Moreau. Moreaus ow n portrayal of his work suggests his existence is wholly consumed by it: in fact, it defines him. Thus, defeat in his scientific work is not acceptable. Caputi argues, because the feminine represents a fundamental threat to the success of a ma les individuation, masculine subjects seek to control and dominate the feminine, resulting in rape and other forms of abuse ( Goddesses 184). Moreau cannot give up, for if he does he lose s his superiority as a man and a scientist. Moreaus relentlessness is indicative of his masculine and scientific endeavor, one that cannot endure loss. As Caputi notes, rape and abuseboth forms of torture are one manner in which patriarchy dominates the feminine. They are likewise the avenues for Moreau in his work. The language he uses to describe his project leaves little room for anything but a view of him as a Dr. Death or cruel God:2 Each time I dip a living creature into the bath of burning pain, I say, This time I will burn out all the animal; this ti me I will make a rational creature of my own! After all, what is ten years? Men have been a hundred thousand in the making. He thought darkly. But I am drawing near the fastness. This puma of mine After a silence, And t hey revert. As soon as my hand is 2 For an in-depth look at Moreau as a Dr. Death figure, see Elana Gomels From Dr. Moreau to Dr. Mengele: The Biological Sublime. Poetics Today 21 (Summer 2000): 393421. For an interpretation of Moreau as God, see Gorman Beauchamps The Island of Dr. Moreau as Theological Grotesque. 33
taken from them the beast begins to creep back, begins to assert itself again. (Wells, Island 59) The violence Moreau commits against these animals necessitates the eventual backlash of the feminine that occurs when the puma breaks fr ee. Though there are more than sixty of these str ange creations of Moreaus art on the island, they comprise the inferior end of a power dynamic betw een themselves and Moreau (61). In effect, they stand as the feminine pole of t he masculine scientific power spectrum. Similar to Schiebinger, Benziman argues t hat modern science was traditionally gender-biased; its enlightened, rational met hodologies were perceived as masculine, and its object of researchnatureas femi nine (379). Thus, t he work that Moreau performs establishes a gendered binarism between himself and his subjects. As he becomes more and more possessed by his fail ed labors, he comes to view his creations with disgust. Moreau says, They only sicke n me with a sense of failure (Wells, Island 59). The only creature Moreau oper ates on during Prendicks stay is the puma, and until the discussion he has with Prendick, the pu ma remains genderless. However, after Prendick and the reader lear n of Moreaus indifferenc e, the puma becomes gendered almost unnoticeably. Moreau says, I have some hope of this puma. I have worked hard at her head and brain and trails off (59). This puma functions simultaneously as the creature into which he has pour ed his greatest efforts and as his greatest sense of failure. The inimitable factor that he cannot grasp, that which defeats him, is the feminine. Because Moreau is the active pursuer of a new creation and his subjects are the passive objects of his study, each becomes gendered accordingly. His torture, disregard and lack of understanding of the need for the feminine ultimate ly lead him to his own 34
demise. Benziman stresses t hat [s]ince naturenow c hallenged by mans scientific progressis conceived of as feminine and mater nal, to surpass it is also to defeat the female body, especially when conception, pr egnancy, and childbirth ar e at stake (381). This form of conquest is reminiscent of 19th century science, Benziman argues, and gets reworked in Gothic literary tales of ma le birth: This dynamic serves to create narratives of reproduction that are conspicuous ly motherless, and in which a male, who is also a scientist, overcomes his own bi ological deficiency[and] by usurping the maternal role, produces a new creature (381). The infringem ent by Moreau on the feminine realm thereby necessitates a return of the repressed feminine by the end of the books main action (Lehman 54). Then suddenly something happe ned, writes Prendick (Wells, Island 75). The puma breaks free, shriek[ing] almost like that of an angry virago (75). Characterized as an evil shrew and spirit, the now gendered pu ma, the odious feminine, returns with a vengeance. Her vengeance echoes Cair ds dog metaphor. She writes, He [the dog] has no revenge in his power; he must live and die, and no one knows his wretchedness. But the woman takes her unconscious vengeance, for she enters into the inmost life of society. She can pay back the injury with interest (original emphasis, 187). The dog, the puma and the New Woman a ll strike back at Moreau. Wells probably knew of t he oft-used dog metaphor, the same one used in Cairds essay on marriage in 1888, as well as the metaphor Sarah Grand employed in her essay The New Aspect of the Woman Q uestion in 1894. Grand, echoing Caird, exhorts, When we hear the Help! help! help! of the desolate and the oppressed, and still more when we see the awful dumb despair of those who have lost 35
even the hope of help, we must respond. Th is is often inconvenient to man, especially when he has seized upon a def enceless vic tim whom he would have destroyed had we not come to the rescue and so, because it is inconvenient to be exposed and thwarted, he snarls about the end of all true womanliness, cants on the subject of the Sphere, so that we cannot be stirred into having our sym pathies aroused by his victims when they shriek, and with shades over our eyes that we may not see him in his degradation, we shall be afflicted with short hair, coarse skins, unsymmetrical figures, loud voices, tastelessness in dr ess, and an unattractive appearance and character generally, and then he will not love us any more or marry us. (144) The figure of the defenceless victimthe shrieking dog or the pumahearkens back to the opening of Grands essay and one of the labels given to the die-hard suffragettes, Shrieking Sisterhood (141). Th e puma enters the fr ay as the New Woman, a shrieking sister. Her shrieks of pain align her with the rhetoric deployed against the New Woman. Moreover, the women that refuse to submit are afflicted wit h a slew of horrible traits that are analogous to Mor eaus creatures. They are described as the unattractive, shorthaired monsters whom no one will marry. For example, the only creature Prendick claims he hated from the begi nning was a particularly hateful (and evil-smelling) female (Wells, Island 63). He similarly indicates, the femaleshad in the earlier days of my stay an instinctive sense of their ow n repulsive clumsiness, and displayed in consequence a more than human regard for the decencies and decorum of external costume (64). If a woman resists, s he becomes the dejected icon Grand summons the ugly woman who will have to conceal her monstrousness.3 The descriptions of the puma coalesce wi th the argot of the womens movement. Yet the connection becomes even clearer in Pr endicks final portrayal of the puma: I 3 Ouida, too, engages in the New Woman debate against womens suffrage and also utilizes some of the animal metaphors that Sarah Grand exercise s. See Ouidas The New Woman. May 1894. A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s Ed. Carolyn Christensen Nelson. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2001. 1530. 36
threw up my arm to defend myself he cont inues, and the great monster, swathed in lint and wit h red-stained bandages fluttering about it, leapt over me and passed (75). The puma clad in bandages and bl eedinga literal mobile wound, an attack on nature and menruns past Prendick, returning to the natural world from which it originated. Yet what Moreau has done to it in his tort ure will not allow the puma to be simply released. This puma eventually kills Mor eau and causes the death of Montgomery; she also permanently scars Prendick, who will be unabl e to reassimilate to life in England. Her actions will stand as a lesson to both Prendick and those who read his tale of Moreaus horror of vivisection and scientific dominion. 4 The Rejected Feminines Legacy The action following the pumas escape is all reported to Prendick, who then relates it to his reader. After the puma fl ees into the jungle, Moreau and Montgomery follow in pursuit. The forest again becomes personified: [Prendick] stared inland at the green bush that had swallowed up Moreau and Montgomery ( 77). The feminine landscape now has the ability to attack, to exact its measure of revenge against Moreau. We learn of gunfire and of Montgomerys fruitl ess searches for Moreau. What ensues is a chaos that contrasts against the grim order that More au tried to create through his science. This chaos should similarly be viewed as feminine. According to Caputi, chaos is related to the feminine, namely, to goddesses such as Kali and Eve ( Gossips 281). Chaos, as a concept, is often femi nized, and is the raw material from which the order of the universe is formedusually by a male god. 4 I want to acknowledge that Coral Lansbury and I bot h read the puma as the New Woman. However, she does not argue for the gendering of science and nature in The Island of Doctor Moreau as do I, nor does she accommodate Mona Caird and Sarah Grands essays. See the Old Brown Dog p. 151. 37
Within The Island of Doctor Moreau the femi nine puma brings about new chaos, ultimately leading to the deaths of Mo reau, Montgomery and many of the islands creatures. Similarly, in the ten months Prendick remains on t he island after Moreau has died, the beasts begin to revert back to their former types. Though the chaos on the island eventually reaches a point of equ ilibrium, the trauma Prendick endures persists until his death. When once back in England, he writes, I c ould not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also anot her Beast People, animals half wrought into the outward image of human souls, and t hat they would presently begin to revert (102). Fearing that everyone is now one of Moreaus beasts, Prendick moves to a quiet country home surrounded by books. According to Roger Bowen, T he very notion of creation for [ The Island of Doctor Moreau ] is an extension, in light of nineteenth-century evolut ionary theory, of that ancient story of a perverter of human souls and an abuser of the human form (321). The Island of Doctor Moreau stands as both a cautionary tale, warning against the horrors of science that promises creati on of new organisms, and as a commentary on the debate of the 1890s, including such topi cs as vivisection and womens rights. Commenting on the New Women of the fin de sicle and the feminist antivivisectionists as well as the hubris contained in the belief of many of Wells contemporaries that the biol ogical and social sciences could eliminate the unknown or the excessive from the calculus of humanity, The Island of Doctor Moreau summarizes the worries of science run amok (Showalter 79; Christensen 577). Explicit in the text is the masculine supremacy of logic and scienc e, taking form in Moreaus experiments against nature and animals as well as Prendicks writ ing of a text. Implicit in the text is 38
39 the feminized landscape and natur e that eventually returns to wreak disaster against the masculine scientist. H.G. Wells text thus both posits the problem of masculine science and offers an image of the respons e from the rejected feminine.
CHA PTER 4 EPILOGUE: THE FIN-DE-SICLE AND WELLS FEMINISM The politic al climate of t he 1890s in Britain, as we have seen, gets inscribed into the novellas landscape and the figure of the puma. It also functions as a cautionary tale. Though some assert that its cav eat belongs to science, I have argued its admonition pertains to the anti-womens movement. According to Mason Harris, who cites an early reviewer of The Island of Doctor Moreau and friend to Wells, suggests that Wells was pro-vivisection but utilized the anti-vivisecti onist standpoint as an effective source of horror (100). Indeed, as Harris points out, Wells makes clear in Popular Feeling, a later essay attacking the anti-vivisectionist movement, that his views on vivisection are grounded in scienc e and the belief that vivisection could provide benefits to humanity (101). In my own reading of the puma and the geography of Moreaus island I do not mean to suggest anyth ing to the contrary of Wells stance on vivisection; however, I have tried to illustrate how The Island of Doctor Moreau utilized a popular science idea to forward a critique on behalf of New Women. Though anti-vivisectionists were often prosuffrage, the two polit ical positions do not cross in Wells beliefs. Writing about a decade after The Island of Doctor Moreau in First and Last Things (1908), Wells writes, I declare for the conventional equality of women, that is to say for the determinat ion to make neither sex nor any sexual characteristic a standard of superiority or in feriority, for the view that a woman is a person as important and necessa ry, as much to be consulted, and entitled to as much freedom of action as a man ( First 265). Wells feminism offe rs the grounds for a prowomens interpretation of The Island of Doctor Moreau 40
41 It seems futile to suggest that in his atti tude toward vivisection Wells was patently anti-science. Instead, Wells text exploits the vivise ctionist debate and the antivivisectionist stance for a subtly feminist argument. Br ian Stableford professes, Ambivalent attitudes to science are not parti cularly unusual in works of speculative fiction. A great deal of the fiction nowadays ca tegorized as science fiction is horrific, and much of it is born of a fear or even a deep-seated hatred of the scientific world-view (48). The Island of Doctor Moreaus employment of a popular perspectivethe anger against vivisectionallows for a critique of the anti-womens movement more than vivisection. That Wells text contributes to criticisms of the anti-womens movement of the 1890s likewise places The Island of Doctor Moreau in the line of feminist science fiction that deals with issues of sexism and po litics. In this it is similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilmans Herland Therefore, understanding The Island of Doctor Moreau as such does two things: it extends early feminist science fiction further into the past, and it also offers a way to understand womanle ss science fiction as pro-feminist. The texts feminist message, disguis ed as the barbaric experiments of mad scientists quest for pure creation, is dependent upon defamiliarization. Without recognizing the novella as sci ence fiction, a reading of The Island of Doctor Moreau as pro-feminist would be less than obvious. The Island of Doctor Moreau rather than taking place in England, though an island itse lf, transpires on an unfamiliar, fictive isle near the Galapagos Islands. In lieu of real women, there is a puma. In place of an authentic society, there is a Beast People fash ioned in light of science, complete with a god (Moreau) and laws. Cleverly disguised, The Island of Doctor Moreau functions as a science fiction text that nonetheless critiques anti-feminist perspectives.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Thomas Cole graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 2004. Thereafter, he attended Rhodes College in Me mphis, Tennessee and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and German in 2008. In 2010, he received his Master of Arts in English and a certificate in womens studies at the University of Florida and will pursue a doctoral degree at the same institution in t he fall of the same year. 45