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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Chapters 8–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 8: The Crying of the Puma

Edward Prendick and Montgomery eat lunch together in Prendick's room at Doctor Moreau's island compound. Doctor Moreau is "too preoccupied with some work" to join them. Montgomery offers Prendick some whiskey, but Prendick says he is "an abstainer." Montgomery comments that he wishes he were but that it is too late now.

Prendick questions Montgomery about his misshapen attendant's (M'ling) hairy, pointed ears and about the race to which the strange men on the island belong. Montgomery is evasive on the subject, although he does again obliquely reference a past incident in London (involving alcohol and "a foggy night") that led to his working for Moreau. He adds that he thought himself "in luck" when Moreau took him on, with the clear implication that he now realizes this is not the case.

The pained cries of a puma repeatedly interrupt their banter and continue after Montgomery leaves. To escape the agonized sounds, Prendick opens his room's outer door and goes outside. The sounds seem even louder there, so he continues to walk until he cannot hear them anymore.

Chapter 9: The Thing in the Forest

Prendick wanders around Doctor Moreau's island to avoid the cries of the puma. While resting in a wooded area, he spies a strange-looking manlike "Something" (named later in the novel as the Leopard Man) approaching a stream "on all fours like a beast" and then slurping water as an animal would. Prendick accidentally startles the creature, and it stands and wipes its mouth. The two stare at each other for several seconds before it slinks off into a patch of bushes.

Prendick then finds the body of a rabbit with its head torn off, and his feeling of uneasiness grows. Shortly afterward, he comes to the edge of an open space where he sees "three grotesque human figures," two males and a female. Their "chinless faces, retreating foreheads," and the "scant bristly hair" on their heads are features Prendick has never seen on human beings before. As they speak to one another in "some complicated gibberish," Prendick has a stunning revelation. While they are human in form, the beings have about them the "irresistible suggestion of a hog, a swinish taint, the unmistakable mark of the beast."

He moves away from them without detection but again encounters the Leopard Man he saw drinking at the stream. When he attempts to engage the creature in conversation, it flees. Darkness falls quickly as Prendick heads back toward the compound. He becomes certain that the creature is following him, and he breaks into a run as the sounds of footsteps close in behind him. When he turns, he sees the Leopard Man approaching quickly on all fours. Prendick throws a rock at the creature, striking its head. It pushes past him and collapses. Prendick gives it "a wide berth" and runs toward the distant light of the compound, from which his name is being called.

Analysis

In these two chapters, Wells brings Prendick (and the reader) closer to an explicit revelation of the nature of Doctor Moreau's work. Montgomery's continued reluctance to discuss that work suggests strongly that something other than ordinary vivisection is taking place, and his frequent drinking signals his shame at being involved in it. (His use of alcohol as a coping mechanism will, in fact, emerge as a secondary cautionary tale within the major one that largely defines the story.)

In Chapter 9, Wells creates some striking imagery to evoke a blurring of the line between human and animal. The man that Prendick happens upon as the man slurps water from a stream acts unmistakably like an animal, moving around on all fours. When Prendick encounters the three figures in the clearing, he directly compares their appearance and mannerisms to that of hogs. Additionally, Prendick's comment that they bear "the unmistakable mark of the beast"—a biblical reference to a sign of evil—overtly expresses the diabolical nature of what he is uncovering. The hogs themselves are a biblical allusion as well. In the New Testament's book of Mark (5:1–20), Jesus frees a man possessed by demons by sending the demons into a herd of pigs. Allegorically, Moreau will soon be revealed to be doing much the same thing as the demons—imposing an outside evil into the ordinary nature of pigs and other animals.

The puma's screams are the novel's first indication of the existence of Moreau's "House of Pain." This place, where Moreau performs vivisections, will come to symbolize a sort of purgatory (or hell) in the metaphysical construct that Moreau has created to keep the Beast People under control. At this point, however, Prendick is still unaware of the true nature of what is going on there. As such, he finds the cries of the puma "singularly irritating" rather than horrifying, not yet understanding that Moreau's activities are blurring the line between animals and human beings—and in the process raising a slew of disturbing moral and ethical concerns.

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