The Island of Dr. Moreau

Social Surgery in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and “Under the Knife”

H.G. Wells believed intensely in the productive aspects of science and the potential of the human race. At the same time, he was also acutely aware that scientific knowledge placed in the wrong hands could result in evil caused by the darker aspects of humanity. Wells develops a brilliant metaphor in the form of surgery as a way to combine and comment upon the positive and negative divide of scientific advancement in the hands of a brute race. In both The Island of Dr. Moreau and “Under the Knife” Wells develops his idea that surgery will be necessary in order to attain his hopes for a utopian society.

A utopian ideal was for H.G. Wells not a hopelessly unattainable possibility, but he was enough of a pragmatist to realize that it would require some unpleasant social construction. In “A Modern Utopia” he recognizes the obstacle in the path of a perfect society: “Then there are persons tainted with certain foul and transmissible diseases. All these people spoil the world for others. They may become parents, and with most of them there is manifestly nothing to be done but to seclude them from the great body of the population” (Wells 142). He offers up a very interesting solution to this problem, what he calls “social surgery”...

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