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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Chapters 18–19 | Summary



Chapter 18: The Finding of Moreau

Doctor Moreau has chased the escaped puma into the brush and not returned. Montgomery has given up the search for him and is sitting in the compound getting drunk. Edward Prendick insists that they go back out and search some more. Montgomery reluctantly agrees, and he, Prendick, and M'ling set out. In the woods, they overhear the Ape Man, the Sayer of the Law, and four other Beast People discussing Moreau's death. They make themselves known to the creatures, and one asks whether there is still a Law now that Moreau is gone. Prendick—fearing how the Beast People may react if nobody has authority over them—insists that Moreau has merely changed form. He is now in the sky looking down upon them, he says, seeing all they do. Montgomery realizes what Prendick is up to and repeats the claim.

The Beast People take them to the dead Moreau. He has been savagely killed by the puma, who itself is dead and partially eaten. With the help of the creatures, the humans carry Moreau's body to the compound, where Prendick and Montgomery lay his remains "upon a pile of brushwood." Afterward, they destroy every living thing in Moreau's laboratory.

Chapter 19: Montgomery's "Bank Holiday"

Prendick wants to return to civilization, but a bitter and increasingly drunk Montgomery points out that he—Montgomery—has nothing to return to. He is an "outcast," he says. He spent his early years being bullied by headmasters, was driven from medical school by a scandal, and has spent the years since on the island with only Moreau, M'ling, and the other Beast People for companionship. He adds that the Beast People are the only ones he has really ever cared for, that they need him, and that the island is where he belongs. He gradually becomes angry and finally announces that he is going to treat himself to a "bank holiday" (a vacation day in England) that will involve sharing his alcohol with the Beast People. Prendick, his arm still injured from his encounter with the puma, is unable to stop him from storming out into the darkness.

Prendick goes to gaze at the dead Moreau and the animals he and Montgomery have destroyed and put next to Moreau's body. He decides that he will pack provisions and, in the morning, take the dinghy out onto the ocean, hoping to be rescued. As he rummages for provisions, his attention is caught by a reddish glow and loud conflict in the distance. He goes to investigate and finds that Montgomery has built a bonfire on the island's beach and has indeed given several Beast Men alcohol to drink. M'ling and the Sayer of the Law are dead, along with a Bull Man. A fourth creature, a Wolf Brute, is mortally wounded; Prendick puts it out of his misery with his revolver. The Sayer of the Law has torn open Montgomery's throat with its claws, and Montgomery lies dying helplessly on the ground.

Prendick tries to administer what little help he can. As dawn approaches, he realizes that a lamp he overturned when he rushed to Montgomery's assistance has set the compound on fire. He looks toward the shore and discovers that Montgomery has destroyed both the launch and the dinghy, the only possible means of leaving the island. The sun rises as Montgomery acknowledges "the last of this silly universe" and then dies. From the brush, three Beast Men tentatively approach him.


Throughout the novel Wells has explored the fluid boundary of animals and humans. He shows in Moreau the animalistic ability to maim and kill. In characters such as M'ling and the Sayer of the Law, both of whom die in Chapter 19, he shows a spark of humanity. Wells presents few particulars about the events preceding the deaths of Montgomery, M'ling, and the Sayer of the Law. However, the reader can easily infer that the ongoing reversion of the Beast People toward their animal nature, combined with their consumption of alcohol and Montgomery's crazed behavior, whipped the creatures into a tragic state of agitation. Montgomery's encouragement, "Drink ... drink, ye brutes!" is very reminiscent of Stephano feeding alcohol to Caliban in Act 3, Scene 2 of English playwright William Shakespeare's (1564–1616) The Tempest (written 1611):

Stephano: Tell not me. When the butt is out, we will drink water; not a drop before. Therefore bear up and board 'em—Servant monster, drink to me ...
Stephano: Drink, servant monster, when I bid thee. Thy eyes are almost set in thy head.

Interestingly, in both instances, the forced drinking spurs a previously powerless character to enact revenge (Caliban upon Prospero; the Sayer of the Law upon Montgomery).

Scholar John L. Flynn of Towson University has pointed out that when Prendick elevates the dead Moreau to a sort of deity watching over his creations on high, he turns the scientist into a Jesus-like figure. In the Bible's gospel accounts, Jesus dies, is resurrected, and ascends to heaven. Prendick's "For a time you will not see him" is a direct reference to the New Testament's John 16:16, in which Jesus says, "A little while, and you will no longer see me." Flynn sees in this comparison Wells's "own contempt for organized religion."

Prendick is left at the end of the chapter stranded on the island with no human companionship and no apparent means of escape. Yet the reader knows from the novel's introduction that Prendick will eventually be found adrift "in a small open boat ... supposed to have belonged to the missing schooner Ipecacuanha." It remains to be seen how this will come about.

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