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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau | Quotes


The following narrative was found among his papers by the undersigned, his nephew and heir.

Charles Prendick, Introduction

The introduction written by Edward Prendick's nephew Charles places the novel in the "found manuscript" tradition. It is typical of some Gothic literature but is also used in more contemporary works, such as Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1980). Writing as Charles, Wells includes specific details, such as dates and geographic coordinates, that are meant to root the fantastic tale that follows in reality for the reader.


In some indefinable way the black face thus flashed upon me shocked me profoundly.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 3

This part of Edward Prendick's description of Montgomery's "misshapen" attendant M'ling evokes dark skin color as a trait of a physically unattractive person. It evidences the casual racism that permeated Western culture during the period when Wells wrote The Island of Doctor Moreau.


But the islanders, seeing I was really adrift, took pity on me.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 6

After Edward Prendick is set adrift by the captain of the Ipecacuanha, Doctor Moreau and his companions save him from nearly certain death. This characterization on Wells's part humanizes the character who is the novel's villain. Just as the Beast People exist somewhere on a continuum between animals and humans, Moreau reminds the reader that the possibility to do evil rests in all people.


Why has your man pointed ears?

Edward Prendick, Chapter 8

Prendick's question to Montgomery about Montgomery's attendant M'ling signals his early suspicions about the nature of the strange men on Moreau's island. He is still mistaken at this point, however, as he believes Moreau is turning humans into animals, when Moreau is really doing the opposite.


You've been meeting some of our curiosities, eh?

Montgomery, Chapter 10

Montgomery trivializes the horrific encounter that Edward Prendick has just had with the Leopard Man. This is in keeping with the air of secrecy both he and Moreau have been maintaining as to the nature of the experimentation on the island.


Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

Sayer of the Law, Chapter 12

This tenet is one of many by which the Beast People are expected to conduct themselves. It exemplifies the formal, human-based morality forced upon the creatures by Moreau in order to control them. It is also one of the first rules violated by the Beast People as their "travesty of humanity" begins to come apart. Those violations of the Law will become the tipping point at which the artificial society constructed for the creatures begins its deterioration into chaos.


A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau ... had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 12

In addition to giving the Beast People rules that force them to live by human standards, the Law places Moreau in a godlike position over the creatures. His is the "Hand that makes," with the authority to mete out punishment in the form of torture in his House of Pain (vivisection room).


Now, seeing the creature ... I realized again the fact of its humanity.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 16

Prendick says this about the Leopard Man just before he shoots the creature to keep it from being tortured by Moreau. The Beast People are human enough to show Prendick the "viler aspect of Moreau's cruelty." Moreau has casually condemned all the animals he has transformed to a lifetime of fear.


Suddenly a great white bird flew up out of the boat, and neither of the men stirred.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 21

The appearance of the boat just when Prendick needs it most is one of the many coincidences that give a fable-like quality to the narrative. Critic and author Margaret Atwood suggests that the white bird is meant to deliberately evoke the albatross killed by the titular mariner in Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Both the novel and the epic poem are about the proper way to treat nature and include a boat filled with dead men. The Island of Doctor Moreau, however, has a much darker vision of the relationship and focuses on the ways in which humans can harm nature.


I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another Beast People ... and that they would presently begin to revert.

Edward Prendick, Chapter 22

Edward Prendick has returned to civilization after nearly a year among the Beast People. The events of his time on Moreau's island have left him in a general state of fearfulness, averse to contact with other human beings and prone to isolation. This quote is another reminder of the human-animal boundary explored by the novel and of the influence of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection on the author. (It is also an allusion to the aversion Gulliver develops to humans during his time among the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms in Part 4 of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.) Darwin's theory put forth the controversial idea that humans are the result of favorable traits passed on to succeeding generations, not perfect and unique works created by God. For Prendick, humans are no better than the animals from which they have descended.

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