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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10: The Crying of the Man

As Edward Prendick nears the compound, he realizes that the light before him is shining through the open exterior door of his room. Montgomery is waiting for him inside. Prendick, "in a state bordering on hysterics," demands to know the nature of the creatures he encountered in the woods—one of which chased him. "Was it a beast," he asks, "or was it a man?" Montgomery downplays Prendick's terror and gives him something to help him sleep. The tormented cries of the vivisected puma, which Prendick had left his room to escape, are still coming from within the compound. They continue as Prendick passes out.

The next morning, he awakens to find breakfast waiting for him. As he eats, he hears still more sounds of agony. Now, however, they seem human. Montgomery visits briefly and when he leaves forgets to lock the interior door separating Prendick's room from the interior of the compound. Prendick opens it and sees something bandaged and bloody, bound to some sort of framework. Before he can spy more, however, Doctor Moreau confronts him, forces him back into his room, and locks the door. Prendick hears Moreau and Montgomery arguing about him, but after a few moments their exchange becomes too faint to understand. He concludes that Moreau and Montgomery are vivisecting a person and that he himself is in danger.

Chapter 11: The Hunting of the Man

Prendick decides to flee before Moreau and Montgomery can send him off "to the rest of their Comus rout." In need of a weapon, he breaks a side rail from his room's deck chair. He hears a footstep at the exterior door of his room and flings the door open. Montgomery is there, preparing to lock him in. Prendick drives him back and escapes into the woods. Once he has eluded his pursuer, however, he realizes he has also separated himself from food and water.

He comes across the "simian" man (named later in the novel as the Ape Man) who had met the launch when it landed on the island. He realizes that he feels less loathing toward him than he does the other "Beast Men." When he tries to communicate with the creature, he discovers that it knows a few very simple words in English. Prendick asks where he can find food, and the Ape Man answers, "At the huts." He then directs Prendick to follow him. The two travel a path that leads to a deep, narrow ravine near the island's shore. The trail becomes very dark as they pass through the ravine but lightens somewhat at its far end.

Analysis

Prendick is finally shaken out of his inaction in Chapter 11, although his escape is prompted by a misunderstanding. When he passes out listening to the puma's agony and awakens to the sound of human moans, he groggily (and mistakenly) assumes that Moreau is transforming humans into animals. It is significant that when Prendick discovered that Moreau was experimenting on a puma, he found the sounds "singularly irritating" and left the compound to avoid them but that now, when he believes a human being is being experimented upon, he is outraged and rushes to intervene. The difference in his reactions is doubtless intended by Wells to make the reader contemplate the blurry line between what defines an animal and what defines a human and to consider the ethics of live experimentation upon any living creature.

Critic Margaret Atwood points out the significance of Wells's evocation of Comus in this chapter. Comus is a character in a masque (an interactive play performed by masked actors) of the same name by the 17th-century writer John Milton. A sorcerer, he is the son of the Greek goddess Circe, who in Greek myth transformed a crew of sailors into pigs. Circe's island, says Atwood, "is an island of transformation: man to beast and then to man again." Comus also transforms men, but they keep their human bodies; only their heads change to those of beasts (as opposed to the Leopard Man, Ape Man, and Swine People that Prendick has already encountered—and the sloth-creature, Dog-man, and others that he will—whose hybrid nature infuses the entirety of their physical and psychological makeup). In naming Comus, Wells provides yet another indication that the Beast People are both human and animal.

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