In the epoch of biopolitical administration, it is noticeable that ontology has regained currency in the fields of literary, philosophical, and political studies. The “ontological turn” is an emergent trend of reorienting thinking toward the devastating yet indiscernible effect of bio-power on life. How does bio-power goes hand-in-hand with thanato-power to bring constraints to bear on life? How does bio-thanato-power engineer life? What is the ontological predicament consequent on the unfortunate marriage of bio-power and thanato-power? Is the predicament in question a sign of doom, or a beacon of hope? This article aims to read H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) as a philosophical novella that raises, analyzes, and answers these questions with stunning exactitude. From Moreau’s grafting surgery to the uncanny existence of the degenerating Beast People, Wells traces clearly how bio-power and thanato-power dovetail in the biopolitical effort to produce the “stubborn beast flesh,” rather than the “well defined” form of qualified life as originally intended. For all the precise grasp of these core problems, this novella eventually fails to bring the radical observation to its logical end. It still remains to be seen if the “being-there” of the “stubborn beast flesh,” as Wells suggests, adds up only to a foreboding reminder of the precariousness of life.
19th Century English in Literature, Vol.15, No.2, pp.185-222.(MLA)