Published in 1896 by H.G. Wells, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” is the narrative of a well-educated man that is rescued from a ship wreck and then placed on an island of fantastical beasts. There he meets the perpetrator of the beasts, Dr. Moreau.
For over ten years Dr. Moreau has been performing vivisections on animals. He cuts off parts and replaces them with parts from other animals to form something new. In doing these operations, he discovered that when an animal is under intense pain, they become almost human. Dr. Moreau uses hypnotism and other therapies to teach them how to talk.
After a while the beast in the animals tries to reassert itself and then Dr. Moreau releases them into the wild. Some live, some don’t. But there is always another animal to work on until he finally tackles one that is too much for him and becomes the prey.
The story is told through the eyes of Edward Prendick, another biologist. Instead of becoming enamored with Dr. Moreau’s experiments, he is horrified. His morality begins strong until he is forced to survive on the island among the Beasts and learns how much of the animal lives in himself.
As one of the first science fiction stories, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” is one of the most well-known books by H. G. Wells. The book has been made into a movie many times. It has also been rewritten into various stories.
In the Dingey of the “Lady Vain”
After the Lady Vain collided with a derelict four men escaped in a dinghy. The author is one of those men. Actually, one of the men did not make it to the dinghy. He was trapped in the ropes of the bowsprit. He struck his head on some wreckage when the rope dropped him. By the time the men in the dingey rowed to him, he was gone.
The dingey drifted away from the launch that most of the crew boarded in the mist following the crash. By the time the weather cleared the next day, the dingey was alone. The other two men in the dingey were Helmar, another passenger, and an unknown seaman.
They drifted for eight days on the placid ocean. By the fourth day, their meager supply of water was gone. On the sixth day, Helmar suggested they scuttle the dingey and feed themselves to the sharks following them. Finally, on the seventh day, they drew lots to see who would go overboard. The sailor was chosen, but he refused to go and fought with Helmar. They both went over, leaving the narrator alone on the dingey. This made the narrator laugh.
By the eighth day, he was still laying immobile in the dingey. The narrator saw a sail come over the sky line, but he thought of the irony of the ship finding him dead in the dingey. Later the narrator wakes up in a cabin in the schooner. He drifted in and out of consciousness remembering a dark face leaning over him pouring some medicine down his throat.
The Man Who Was Going Nowhere
When the narrator wakes up in the untidy cabin, he finds a young man holding his wrist asking him how he feels. The narrator hears a sound overhead that makes him think of a large animal banging on the floor and growling.
After the young man gives him a drink that resembles blood, he tells him the schooner is a trader from Arica and Callao. The young man is a doctor and a fellow passenger. He has been tending to the narrator. While they are waiting for the mutton broth to be ready, the doctor wants to hear the narrators story. But before the story can begin, the doctor steps outside to stop the dogs that are barking and arguing with someone in the hallway.
The narrator tells him that his name is Edward Prendick and he was a student of Natural History. After Edward told the doctor about the Lady Vain, their conversation went back to their mutual memories of Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street.
After a day of sleeping and eating, Montgomery, the young doctor, loaned Edward some clothes so he could go above board. He told Edward the ship was headed to Hawaii. They would drop Montgomery off first at a small unnamed island. Edward got the hint that Montgomery did not want to talk about the island.
The Strange Face
Edward saw a man with a distorted face on the ladder after leaving his room. The man’s face had something like a muzzle. His eyes were overly excited. Montgomery chastised the creature and told him he was supposed to be “forward.” The creature quailed when he said they did not want him there. This made Montgomery even angrier. But, after glancing at Edward, Montgomery let the matter drop.
When they reached the deck, Edward was surprised at how dirty it was. The dogs were chained to the mainmast. There were also rabbits, a puma, and a llama. All except the dogs were in too tight cages. The dogs wore muzzles. The only human above board was a gaunt steersman.
“Is this an ocean menagerie? said I.” Montgomery’s answer was a vague affirmative. Suddenly the “black” (the dog faced creature) came running up while being pursued by an angry red haired seaman. When the black stopped in front of the frenzied dogs, the sailor hit him knocking him to the ground. While the sailor teetered back and forth, other sailors appeared on the board. The angry sailor shoved the creature down leaving him to be tortured by the dogs. While they tried to get to him through their muzzled snouts, the sailors laughed at him.
This made Montgomery angry, so he complained to the captain of the creature’s mistreatment. This prompted an argument between the two men. Edward stepped in between and brought the captain’s ire on himself. “But at any rate, I prevented a fight.”
At the Schooner’s Rail
They spotted land just after sundown. It was the small island Montgomery, and his animals were going to. As Montgomery and Edward are on the deck talking, he tries to thank the doctor for saving his life, but Montgomery says it was all “chance.” Just as what happened to him eleven years earlier led him to be there instead of still practicing medicine in London. Edward doesn’t pry into his secrets and then spots the creature watching the stars pass, too.
The Man Who Had Nowhere to Go
The next morning the captain is determined Edward is to go with Montgomery who says he can’t take him. They argue while the sailors unload the animal cages. Finally, they put Edward back in his dingey with no supplies and set him adrift.
The Evil-Looking Boatmen
Montgomery and his crew took pity on Edward and rowed over to grab his tow line. As they are going to shore, Edward takes the time to study Montgomery’s crew. The men are completely wrapped in cloth to hide their features and skin. When they disembarked on the land, Edward noticed the movements of the men was odd.
Edward is questioned by a white haired man about his credentials since Montgomery told him Edward was a man of science. He attended the Royal College of Science studying biology. This pleases the man since “This is a biological station – of a sort.” Regardless, Edward will be on the island for awhile since ships only come by about once a year. While Edward helps Montgomery release the rabbits, the white-haired man brings him something to eat.
The Locked Door
The white-haired man and Montgomery discuss what to do with their “uninvited guest.” They decide to put him in an apartment with a door they can lock so he won’t know what they are doing. Edward agrees because he has no choice. While he is perusing one of the medical books in the room, he hears Montgomery call the man, Moreau. Edward thinks he has heard the name before but can’t place it.
After the creature from the ship brings Edward a dinner tray, he suddenly remembers where he heard the name, Moreau. “The Moreau Horrors.” Edward tries to piece together the articles from long ago about the brilliant doctor. He wonders what is going on.
The Crying Puma
When Montgomery returns, Edward confronts him with his knowledge of Moreau’s name. Montgomery had hoped to keep that a secret. Then Edward asks him why his creature has furry pointed ears. As they are finishing dinner, they can hear the distant screams of the animals Montgomery brought back.
The Thing in the Forest
Later Edward is taking a walk in the forest. Suddenly he sees a man by the stream that is on all fours with a blue cloth. He was ugly like all the inhabitants. When Edward makes a noise to alert the creature who is drinking at the stream. The creature lopes back into the forest. Continuing on his trek Edward comes across three more creatures. Two men and a woman with bestial faces. While trying to run from the sight of the three creatures, Edward encounters the creature that was drinking at the stream. The creature leaves before Edward can question it.
Realizing it is getting late, Edward decides to go back to the cabin. Along the way, he feels he is being followed. That is confirmed when Edward starts to run. The unknown creature chases him. Edward makes a stand with a sling shot. He takes the brute down with a blow to the head. Edward runs back to the cabin.
The Crying of the Man
Montgomery tells him he didn’t think he would start to explore the island alone. The asks “You’ve been meeting some of our curiosities, eh?” Edward is overwrought and asks about the creatures on the island. Montgomery gives him something to help him sleep. The next morning while eating breakfast Edward thinks he hears a person in pain. When he tries to help, he is locked in his room.
The Hunting of Man
Edward becomes sure that Moreau is vivisecting a human. He also convinces himself that he is the next victim. He tries to hurt Montgomery with a board when he comes to lock the door. Edward rushes out only to be pursued by Montgomery and his creature. Edward manages to hide from them.
He is found by one of the creatures. Edward is glad to hear the creature speak words. Edward begins to question the creature about the number of years he has been on the island. The creature gestures for Edward to follow.
The Sayers of the Law
Edward is led to a cave where he meets more aberrations. When he tells them he wants to stay with them where he feels safe from Moreau they tell him he must “learn the Law.” He must repeat what they say. 1) He can’t go on all fours. 2) don’t drink without using his hands 3) Can’t eat fish or animals 4) Don’t claw at the bark of trees 5) Don’t chase men.
With these and other “Laws”, they continue to remind themselves they are men, not beasts. Then the chant changes to an almost deification of Moreau that is both fearful and awesome. They remind him that “none escape” if they break the laws.
Suddenly the dogs find him along with Moreau and Montgomery who is carrying a gun. Moreau calls for the creatures to hold him and before they can act, Edward escapes. They chase him. He evades them while listening to their shrieks and Moreau’s orders. Then he hears Montgomery tell him to run for his life. He fell into a ravine and dropped his weapon. He walked along the ravine until the water began to boil. He could see the sea before him but knew that his only hope for life was with the “Beast People.”
Edward comes up with a plan to double back to the enclosure, break the lock on the door and look for a weapon. Suddenly he is trapped at the beach by Moreau and his group. Edward walks out into the waves, where the Beasts are afraid to follow. He threatens to drown himself to prevent being tortured by Moreau. Edward uses the Beast Men as examples of what awaits him.
Edward yells to the Beast People that they outnumber the men and don’t have to be tortured. Moreau tries to reason with him by speaking Latin, so the Beast People won’t understand. He tries to explain that if they operated on men, such as Edward assumes, then they would import men, not animals. They offer to give Edward their guns to calm his fears.
He came out of the water, gathered the guns and followed the men back to the camp. But along the way, he noticed some of the Beast People were considering his words.
Doctor Moreau Explains
Doctor Moreau sits down with his cigar in a chair and begins his explanation to Edward about vivisection and how he used it on animals to graft them into hybrids. Then he used hypnotism and therapy to humanize them. His first success was with a gorilla. He uses extreme pain to “burn out the animal.” But, when he stops torturing them, they revert to an animal, and he releases them. They make their way to the caves where they get on with their lives.
After the long dissertation, Moreau asks Edward if he is still frightened. Although he is still afraid, he offers the guns back to the doctor. He tells him to keep them and get some sleep. Moreau leaves, and Edward goes to sleep.
Concerning the Beast Folk
The next morning Edward has a discussion with Montgomery who calms his fears about any revolt from the Beast People. Their law keeps them from attacking. He goes on to tell Edward that Moreau had changed about a hundred and twenty creatures, but most had died. There were only about sixty now, not counting the more inhuman smaller creatures. They also discussed the topography of the island.
The most terrifying of the Beasts were the Leopard Man and a creature made from a hyena and a hog. To Montgomery, the Beasts were so commonplace that he seemed to treat them as malformed humans. Before long, Edward was also used to them.
How the Beast Folk Taste Blood
Montgomery and Edward come upon some of the Beast People in the forest. Because Edward had spent time with them, they don’t believe he is human. On the way back to the compound the two men see a dead rabbit, and Montgomery worries that some of the Beasts are breaking their Laws. When they take the information to Moreau, he says they must find out which one of the Beast People broke the Law and made an example of him. They go to a gathering of the Beast People that evening.
Moreau blew a horn that summoned all of them to a clearing. He begins by having the Sayer of the Law lead the chant of the Law. They know the Leopard Man broke the Law, but when Moreau reminds him of the punishment, that he must go back to the House of Pain, the Leopard Man runs at Moreau, knocking him aside and runs away. The whole group goes in pursuit, including the humans. Edward sees it first and takes pity. He kills it so the Leopard Man can’t be taken back to the House of Pain. When Moreau complains that he wanted him, Edward tries to explain that it was an impulse to shoot the creature.
While Moreau continued with his research and Montgomery divided his time between the creatures and drinking, Edward kept trying to think of some way to get off the island.
One day the puma Moreau had been torturing escaped. It knocked Edward over breaking his arm and ran for the woods with Moreau in pursuit. Montgomery left to try to help, leaving Edward a gun to wait at the enclosure. Soon Montgomery returns telling Edward the Beasts had gone mad. He had to shoot some of them.
The Finding of Moreau
Soon they start out to find Moreau. Montgomery is drunk, and Edward has his left arm in a sling. They come across some of the Beasts who proclaimed Moreau was dead and wondered if the Law was dead, too. Edward assured them that Moreau was not dead, just changing. He would be back, and the Law was still in effect. They had the Beasts lead them to Moreau’s body. They are attacked on the way but kill the Beast. Edward uses this to enforce the Law. They find Moreau’s mutilated body and take it back to the compound where they lay it on a pyre and then destroy every living creature in his lab.
Montgomery’s Bank Holiday
During the night Montgomery proceeds to get drunker and then gives alcohol to the Beasts that serve them. He gets them drunk, and they go off into the woods together singing drinking songs. Edward goes back into the cabin and locks the door. Suddenly he hears a tumult and rushes to help Montgomery. He discovers him almost dead at the hands of one of the Beasts and that Montgomery destroyed the boats. In his rush to get to Montgomery Edward knocked over a lamp and the huts in the compound were ablaze. Montgomery dies leaving Edward alone with the remaining Beast People.
Alone with the Beast Folk
Edward picks up the whip and uses it to convince the remaining Beasts that the deaths were caused because they broke the Law. He makes them bow down to him and dispose of the bodies in the sea. Edward knows that he has only achieved a temporary dominance.
The Reversion of the Beast Folk
The dominance Edward has because they know he will kill them. But most think there is no master now. He convinces them that the Master is not dead but watches them from an unseen place. And the House of Pain will be rebuilt. “It takes a real man to tell a lie.” As time passes the Beasts become more and more like animals. They lose the ability to speak and walk on all fours more often. Edward made his camp in the charred remains of Moreau’s home since the memory of pain made it the safest from the Beasts.
By autumn Edward began to build a raft. Since the animals slept during the day and prowled at night, Edward adapted his sleeping patterns, too, so he could be on guard. Finally, he sees a sail in the distance and lights a fire to hail them. But when it got closer he saw that it sailed haphazardly. He swam out to the boat and found the dead bodies of the sailors from the schooner that dropped him off on the island the year before. He pulled the boat to shore and after gathering provisions set sail the next day.
The Man Alone
After drifting for three days, Edward is rescued by a brig headed to San Francisco. When he tried to tell his story, no one believed him. Also, he seemed to have trouble believing all the men were not Beast People and then he began to wonder if it was all a dream. As time passes in London, Edward begins to become more adapted to life as a scholar and more contemplative. He closes the story off and signs his name to the narrative. A note at the end tries to add credibility to the story by saying, “The manufacture of monsters – and perhaps even quasi-human monsters – is within the possibilities of vivisection.”
Edward Prendick – at the beginning of the story, he is on a life raft with other men who have survived the sinking of the ship they were on. By the time the life raft is found he is the only survivor and is almost dead. He is nursed back to health by a young medical man and then forced to accompany him to the island.
There he is forced to examine his moral standing on a great many things. Although he is a well-educated man who has studied the same biological studies as Dr. Moreau, Edward believes the work of vivisecting is morally wrong when used the way Dr. Moreau has.
His character often brings up the morality of mistreatment of animals and the fine distinction between animals and man. As he spends time alone on the island, he slips out of his humanity and lives more and more basically. By the time he is rescued, he has trouble with flashes of memory and dealing with people.
Doctor Moreau – as a man of science he uses cruelty to further his studies. He learns that by bringing great pain to animals, they become almost human. With that knowledge, he grafts animals together and then humanizes them. He maintains control of the growing population he has created through fear. He makes himself god like in their presence until his latest acquisition, a puma, attacks him and kills him. The Beasts of the island feared him so much that after his death Edward maintains order by making them believe he is still watching them and isn’t dead, just changing.
Doctor Moreau is extremely intelligent and intense. He is a psychopath with delusions of grandeur. He believes he has found a way to make animals into men, but still treats them like animals.
Montgomery – something happened to him in London one night that drove a well-educated man of medicine to take the position of Moreau’s assistant on the island. Throughout the story, the incident is only alluded to. He drinks to excess and becomes morose. Edward deduces that Montgomery gains a fondness for him because he saved his life by treating him when he was rescued from the life raft. Montgomery has the same fondness for all the Beasts on the island since he has treated them after Moreau damaged them. He is especially fond of M’ling who was created using a bear, a dog, and an ox.
After the death of Dr. Moreau, Montgomery gets very drunk. He doesn’t want to leave the island as Edward does, so he sabotages the boats. He is attacked and killed leaving Edward stranded with no means of escape. Although he is the closest thing to a friend for Edward, Montgomery’s fondness for brandy pushes Edward away. On the night of his death, Montgomery gave brandy to some of the Beasts and tried to get them to join in his party. This is what led to his death.
H.G. Wells Biography
Herbert George (or H.G.) Wells was an English author and political philosopher, most famous for his science-fiction novels with this prophetic depictions of the triumphs of technology as well as the horrors of 20th-century warfare.
Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England in 1866 and educated at the University of London. He worked as a drapers apprentice, tutor, bookkeeper and professional journalist until 1895 when he decided to become a full-time writer. In the next 50 years, he produced more than 80 original works. His novel “The Time Machine” mixed science, action and political commentary. Later works in this genre are: “The Invisible Man” (1897), “The War of the Worlds” (1898) and “The Shape of Things to Come” (1933), each of these fantasies was made into a motion picture.
Wells fathered four children with his second wife, Amy Catherine Robbins.
He also wrote novels devoted to character delineation. Among these are “Kipps” (1905) and “The History of Mr. Polly” (1910), both of which depict members of the lower middle class and their confused and often humorous attempts to better themselves. Many of Well’s other books can be categorized as thesis novels.
After World War I, Wells wrote an immensely popular historical work, “The Outline of History,” (2 vol. In 1920) Throughout his long life Wells was deeply concerned with and wrote voluminously about the problems of contemporary civilization. For a time he was Fabian socialist. His later works were increasingly pessimistic, castigating world leaders of the period and expressing his doubts about the ability of humankind to survive.
Wells had diabetes and co-founded of the Diabetic Association in 1934, a foundation which is still the leading support for people with the disease in the U.K today. In 1946 at age 79, Wells died of an unspecified cause which is now believed to have been a heart attack. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the sea. A commemorative plaque still stands at his former home in Regent’s Park.