The human species and the good gripping dreams of H.G. Wells”
By Emelie Johnson
COPYRIGHT 2013 Northern Illinois University
Style. 47.3 (Fall 2013)
Johnson puts forth the idea that Wells’ knowledge and understanding of humanity in its most basic form is flawed. Wells was born shortly after Darwins “The Origin of Species” became widely reviewed and adopted. Although this gave him a far better understand of human nature than, say, Geoffrey Chaucer, it is a far cry from what we know now to be true. Therefore, Wells would inherently misunderstand the true form of humanity, and that which drives us as species.
Johnson states that Wells’ misunderstanding comes into play when he “inaccurately splits his understanding of humanity” through the belief that humans are governed by their natural instincts, and that there instincts are controlled by “artificial restraints”. Essentially, Wells drew “a sharp line between cultural and natural aspects of the human experience”. She then goes on to attribute this to Wells misunderstanding of two very important aspects of humanity: group cooperation and imaginative culture.
Wells, however, was of the understanding that from an evolutionary stance, humans formed groups solely due to their need for survival rather than behavioral tendency. He also believed that society was not created based on human needs; rather, Wells was of the belief that mankind had a certain ideal towards which its’ needs were forcefully molded. With regards to culture, Wells believed that it was influenced by two things; mans pursuit of knowledge, and mans attempt to satisfy emotional needs. These two factors influenced the “forceful molding” of human culture quite largely.
In accordance with modern knowledge, we have reached the rough idea that“Culture is constrained by biology, we use culture to modify our environments, and we adapt biologically to the environments we have modified.” In essence, we now know that our behavior stems from our evolutionary interactions with our environmental stimuli and our innate dispositions, and is not “forced” as Wells believed.
We see Wells’ line of thinking over and over again in “The Strange Island of Dr. Moreau”, chiefly through the character of Dr. Moreau himself. Moreau is a sort of “physical embodiment” of evolution, twisting nature in a sort of aimless exploration (though he does have an aim). Moreau, and his island world, exist in accordance with Wells above beliefs, and due to the flawed nature of these beliefs, things will and do inevitably go wrong. For example, Moreau seeks to take that which is rather innate – a puma being a puma, for example – and forcefully change it into something else, something which it should not be, in order to meet his ends. Like his stance on cultural, Wells belief that things should and can be molded towards a certain goal proves itself false, as, of course, Moreau’s world comes crashing down because he tried to force nature into what it was not.
Furthermore, Moreau seeks to impose culture upon his Beast Men based around his ideas of the ideal “Beast Man society” and way of life. He attempts to keep the Beast Men from acting upon their impulses, forcing them into a rigidly designed cage of a “culture” which brings them only pain and anguish. In attempting to force his created cultural ideals upon a people, Moreau fails, just as Johnson says a Wellsian thinker would in creating culture.