Illusions of the human in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/5t34sp739

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  • In this thesis, I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) as meditations on an ongoing, collective struggle to define what it means to be human. In Chapter 1, I focus on the reasons why Victor Frankenstein builds his creature and on his "uncanny hysteria" following its first moment of life. I argue that the creature functions as a mirror, reflecting back knowledge that destroys identity by revealing its symbolic, artificial nature. Chapter 2 shifts the focus to Moreau. Here I argue that, regardless of Wells's attempt to maintain and normalize the human/animal binary, it actually deconstructs. More precisely, this autodestruction seems to occur because Wells applies so much pressure to this distinction that it collapses under the weight of his insistence. Throughout Moreau, Wells inadvertently dramatizes characteristics that are simultaneously the most human and animal - sympathy brought on by a shared appreciation of pain, suffering, and fear, for example - which ultimately break down the very distinctions upon which he bases his entire division. Together these texts illustrate ways in which ideas like monstrosity and humanity are constructed in the realm of representation.
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