Religion in H.G. Wells’s stories

Country of the BlindDoctor MoreauH.G. Wells’s story, The Country of the Blind, and novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, offer a critique of the function of religion in society.

In The Country of the Blind, Nunez encounters an isolated community whose inhabitants are blind. His descriptions of the sense of sight, and objects he sees around him, are dismissed by the inhabitants. Their proof – that they believe to be incontrovertible – is a religious explanation. The religious origin story is centred around touch, including the belief that above them is a ‘cavern roof […] exquisitely smooth to the touch’.

Nunez’s facility of sight allows him to dispute the beliefs, but he is unable to convince the population of their error. Their conviction, and his love for Medina-saroté, almost leads him to agree to be blinded. The story ends with Nunez high in the mountains, looking at ‘the illimitable vastness of the sky’. His own understanding of the truth is preferable to accepting a false religious doctrine.

In The Island of Doctor Moreau, the creatures have adopted Moreau’s initial prohibitions as doctrine. ‘The Law’ is a series of rules, some humanist (‘Not to chase other Men’) and some for Moreau’s own purposes (‘Not to eat fish’ is arguably morally arbitrary, but Moreau wishes to avoid them becoming carnivorous).

Once again, our narrator, Prendick, is in a position to witness the folly of a new religious code. His outsider status allows him to see that the Law, and the deification of Moreau as creator (‘His is the Hand that makes’), is a method for the creatures to rationalise the world and their own existence.

In both tales, Wells suggests that organised religion can arise in any closed community to explain the world and humanity’s function within it. Furthermore, the narratives illustrate that these deeply-held convictions can be misleading and potentially dangerous without being balanced by reason and open-minded observation.

Submitted to Coursera as essay 06 for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.
Coursera peer grade: Form 2 / Content 2

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