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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Cast Adrift and Rescued

An introduction to the novel states that on February 1, 1887, a ship named the Lady Vain sank when it collided with another boat in the Pacific Ocean. A passenger named Edward Prendick was aboard. This information is provided by Prendick's nephew Charles, who relates that his uncle was thought to be dead at the time the boat sank and was picked up while floating in a small boat in around the same part of the ocean nearly a year later, in January 1888. Prendick left an account of his adventures during the time he was missing and presumed dead, which was found among his papers after his death. This is the story that follows.

Prendick escapes the wreck in a dinghy and is rescued by the crew of a schooner called the Ipecacuanha. One passenger on the schooner, a doctor named Montgomery, is headed with a cargo of animals to a small, unnamed island. Davis, the captain of the boat, takes a dislike to Prendick and forces him to disembark when Montgomery does.

On Moreau's Island

Prendick lands on an island with Montgomery, a scientist by the name of Doctor Moreau, and several strange, animallike people. One is Montgomery's assistant, a black-faced man with fur-covered ears. Prendick is given a room in the island's compound and ordered never to go into a locked enclosure there. Prendick is certain that he has heard the name Moreau before, and he comes to remember that a man by that name was driven from England some years before for performing cruel vivisections (scientific experiments) on live animals.

Beast People

Prendick is disturbed by the sound of a puma howling pitifully. Exploring the island, he discovers grotesque creatures that look like humans but remind him of animals, sometimes walking on all fours. He becomes convinced that Moreau and Montgomery are vivisecting humans and turning them into the animalistic creatures he keeps encountering. Fearing that they are about to do the same to him, he flees the following day. In the brush, he encounters a talking ape-man. The creature takes him to a ravine where many of the Beast People live. A shadowy figure called the Sayer of the Law agrees to take in Prendick if he recites the Law—a litany of rules, such as walking upright, by which they define themselves as men rather than animals. Prendick does so, but afterward Moreau and Montgomery show up and try to capture him. Again, he flees. Moreau and Montgomery catch up to him on the island's shore, and Prendick threatens to drown himself rather than be tortured. Moreau explains that they are vivisecting animals to create humans, not the other way around as Prendick has thought. They offer Prendick their revolvers as a show of faith, and he agrees to return to the compound with them.

New Understanding

Moreau explains his scientific process to Prendick. He uses techniques he has been refining over 20 years. Although he strives to make the Beast People intelligent, "the things drift back again." That is, once converted to human form, they almost immediately begin to revert to their original animal nature.

Prendick explores the island with Montgomery and finds that the Beast People have been killing rabbits, although they have a law against eating the animals on the island. Moreau calls the Beast People together, and after a leopard-like beast attacks him, he, Montgomery, and Prendick chase the attacker. After shooting the leopard beast, Prendick feels pity for the creatures.

Weeks pass in which Prendick avoids the creatures and humans. After he has been on the island for about two months, he sees the puma that Moreau has been vivisecting escape from the compound. Moreau gives chase and is killed by the creature. The social order of the Beast Men dissolves, and they kill Montgomery. The compound burns down, the result of a lamp accidentally overturned by Prendick, and the only two available boats are destroyed. This leaves Prendick stranded alone on the island with the Beast People. His attempts to keep order among them and maintain his own safety prove increasingly futile as they revert to their animal natures. Finally, he leaves the island on a small boat that has drifted there.

Second Rescue

Three days out to sea, Prendick is rescued by a passing ship. Its captain and mate do not believe his story, instead thinking him mad. Prendick reacts to this by claiming he actually remembers nothing of his time on the island. He returns to civilization and adopts a life of near-isolation and scientific study.

The Island of Dr. Moreau Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 The sinking of the Lady Vain leaves Prendick adrift at sea.

Rising Action

2 Prendick is rescued and taken to Moreau's island.

3 Prendick realizes Moreau is a disgraced vivisectionist.

4 To avoid the cries of a vivisected puma, Prendick walks away.

5 Prendick is attacked in the woods by the Leopard Man.

6 Prendick becomes certain that Moreau is vivisecting people.

7 Moreau convinces Prendick that he is vivisecting animals.

8 Prendick kills the Leopard Man, who has been eating rabbits.

9 The vivisected puma escapes, and Moreau pursues it.

10 The puma kills Moreau, and chaos erupts on the island.


11 Montgomery is killed during his drunken "bank holiday."

Falling Action

12 Prendick is alone on the island as the Beast Folk revert.

13 A boat containing two corpses drifts onto the island.

14 Prendick sets sail from the island and is rescued.


15 Prendick finds he cannot live among other people.

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