Course Hero Logo

The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Island of Dr. Moreau Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Nov. 2019. Web. 27 Jan. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Island-of-Dr-Moreau/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2019, November 15). The Island of Dr. Moreau Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Island-of-Dr-Moreau/

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Island of Dr. Moreau Study Guide." November 15, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Island-of-Dr-Moreau/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "The Island of Dr. Moreau Study Guide," November 15, 2019, accessed January 27, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Island-of-Dr-Moreau/.

The Island of Dr. Moreau | Chapters 12–13 | Summary

Share
Share

Summary

Chapter 12: The Sayers of the Law

The Ape Man has led Edward Prendick to a dimly lit area at the far end of a ravine. Several Beast People live there in huts made of vegetation. Prendick is invited into one of the dens, and the Ape Man gives him a coconut to eat. From the darkness, a figure asks him whether he is a man and whether he is coming to live with them. Prendick replies that he is, and the figure tells Prendick he must "learn the Law."

He then recites a litany of rules that, one by one, Prendick and the Beast People repeat. The directives include prohibitions against walking on all fours, sucking up drink, eating flesh, clawing at the bark of trees, and chasing other men, as well as other rules that seem to Prendick "the maddest, most impossible, and most indecent things" imaginable. Each rule is followed by the affirmation "Are we not men?" After the Law has been spoken, there is a second lengthy chant that begins, "His is the House of Pain. / His is the Hand that makes." At "His are the stars in the sky," Prendick wonders if "Moreau, after animalizing these men, had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself." The gray, hairy figure leading the recitations identifies himself as the Sayer of the Law, adding that "Evil are the punishments of those who break the Law." The Beast Folk gibber in agreement.

The group is distracted by a commotion outside. Prendick and some of the Beast Men leave the den to investigate. They see Doctor Moreau and Montgomery approaching. Moreau commands the Beast Men to restrain Prendick, but he escapes and flees to an obscure part of the island. He now realizes that the Ape Man and the others will be of no help to him.

Chapter 13: A Parley

Prendick wanders the island, certain that Doctor Moreau intends to turn him into one of his animal creatures. Moreau, Montgomery, their dogs, and two Beast Men find him near the shore. He walks into the shark-infested waters, telling them that death is better than the torture they have in store for him. Moreau realizes that Prendick has misunderstood the nature of his experiments and tells him that he is in fact humanizing animals, not animalizing humans. "If we vivisected men, we should import men, not beasts," he says. He also points out that if they had wanted to harm him, they would have done so the previous night when he was in a drug-induced sleep.

Moreau and Montgomery offer Prendick their revolvers as a gesture of goodwill, leaving them on the ground and stepping back so Prendick can take them. Prendick picks one up and shoots a bullet into a lump of lava. This convinces him at last that there is likely no subterfuge on their part. As the three men and two Beast Men begin their walk back to the compound, Montgomery cracks a whip to drive off a Beast Man who attempts to follow Prendick. Prendick muses that the creatures might once have been animals but "never before did [he] see an animal trying to think."

Analysis

"The Law" recited in Chapter 12 by the Sayer of the Law is intended to perpetually guide the Beast People away from their animal natures. The reader can infer from this emphasis that the rules were devised and imparted to them by Moreau (despite his assertion in Chapter 14 that he has nothing to do with them). The laws also serve to instill in the creatures the idea that being men is a point of pride, which reinforces a clean, arbitrary, and inaccurate distinction between animal nature and human nature.

Wells does not note what type of vivisected beast serves as the Sayer of the Law, but it seems to be an intelligent animal (with an English accent, Prendick notes, that is "strangely good"). He has committed the Law and a long prayer to memory, whereas most of the creatures around him are barely able to speak coherently. His violent death in Chapter 19 (as he simultaneously mortally wounds Montgomery) symbolizes Moreau's final failure in successfully creating a so-called civilized society for him to rule.

Chapter 12's account of the saying of the Law and the reciting of the prayer is an obvious depiction, bordering on parody, of a religious rite. The unnamed "He" is clearly Moreau, the "Hand that wounds [and] heals." Moreau is thus a God figure, the Sayer of the Law is a priest, and the "House of Pain"—later to be revealed as Moreau's vivisection room—is a sort of purgatory or hell. While Wells was not (as is sometimes assumed) an atheist, he did not take much stock in organized religion. Here, he seems to portray it as a means of using fear to keep those of low intelligence under control.

In Chapter 13, Prendick at last learns the nature of Doctor Moreau's experiments. He is no longer in physical danger, so the novel's momentum shifts from being driven by an outer conflict (a perceived threat from Moreau) to an inner conflict. Readers may wonder what moral decisions he will make now that he has seen an animal "trying to think."

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Island of Dr. Moreau? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!