The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Summary and Analysis of Chapters III-V


On their way out of the cabin, Prendick and Montgomery encounter a beastly-looking man (M'Ling, as it turns out), who startles Prendick with his grotesqueness. He sees something familiar in the face, but he cannot determine what. Montgomery angrily asks why M'ling is not in the forward of the ship, and M'Ling tells him that he is not allowed.

As the two of them come out onto the deck, Prendick sees the deck covered with refuse and caged animals, including rabbits, dogs, a llama, and a puma. Prendick questions Montgomery about the unusual cargo, but his answers are vague and irresolute.

Suddenly M'Ling runs out onto the deck, pursued by the violent and drunken captain. The crew and dogs join in the harassment. Montgomery is furious. He tells the captain to keep his hands off of M'ling. There follows an argument between the two, in which the captain keeps asserting his right to do what he likes on his ship. Prendick intervenes, and although he brings the captain's intoxicated wrath upon himself, he prevents a fight.


As night falls, land is sighted. The schooner makes for the island. Prendick and Montgomery, after dinner with the ship's mate (the captain having passed out on his cabin floor), go onto the deck rail to talk. Montgomery seems painfully reminiscent of London, and Prendick tries to satisfy him with as much news and gossip as he can remember. Prendick also wonders about the beasts on board and M'ling, but he does not voice his concerns for fear of angering him. Prendick thanks him for saving his life, and Montgomery verges on revealing his past, alluding to how he "lost [his] head for ten minutes on a foggy night." But Montgomery eventually decides not to share his story, and Prendick does not pursue the matter.

Suddenly, Prendick's eyes meet M'ling's (M'ling had been standing nearby), and he notices a passing but distinctly bestial glow in them. The glow greatly unnerves him. He goes to bed with unpleasant dreams.


Prendick awakes from dreams of "guns and howling mobs" to the sounds of the ship unloading. He emerges onto the deck and encounters the drunken captain, who rudely points him toward Montgomery and Doctor Moreau (although Prendick does not yet know his name). He wants Prendick off his ship, but Moreau refuses to take Prendick. After a heated argument among the three of them, the sailors begin trying to push Prendick overboard. They finally manage to shove him into the boat from the Lady Vain. They cut him adrift, and seeing both the schooner and Montgomery fading away brings Prendick the sudden realization that he is as deserted and desolate as he had been after the shipwreck. He begins crying and wailing.


The introduction of M'ling in Chapter III is significant for many reasons. Chiefly it foreshadows the rest of the story. For example, Prendick hints at his bestiality, describing the coarse hair, muzzle-like face, and huge mouth. This chapter also exposes us to the tragedy of the Beast Men, exemplified in how the crew and even the dogs abuse the frightened and cowering M'ling. Thus, very early on, Wells ensures that his readers will be sympathetic to the Beast Men. We already find such beings pitiable and unsettling.

Other foreshadowing builds suspense, such as the unexplained animal menagerie and the captain's angry comments about the island and the voyage thus far. Of particular note is the captain's frenzied characterization of M'ling, which carries religious implications: "That's just what he is--he's a devil, an ugly devil."

The short Chapter IV does not give the reader much new information. It merely reinforces some characterizations. It shows that Prendick is polite, Montgomery is mysterious, the captain is a drunk, and M'ling is animalistic. Montgomery's untold story points to sinister events on the island.

The quiet conversation furthers the friendship between Prendick and Montgomery, despite Montgomery's reductive attempts to call their meeting chance and nothing more. Prendick seems to agree somewhat, musing that Montgomery seemed to have "come out of Immensity merely to save [his] life." In both instances, they devalue personal initiative as a causative agent, and in doing so are minimizing responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If they are passive with respect to nature and fate, Dr. Moreau is brutally active.

Prendick's dreams in Chapter V reflect a growing animalism in the novel. He sees "guns and howling mobs." With this, the cruelty of the captain, and Doctor Moreau's refusal to take Prendick, the novel is presenting a very unflattering image of Prendick's fellow man. The humans all too often act like animals. The animals on board, meanwhile, elicit sympathy given that they are dumped roughly from the ship. As in earlier chapters, Wells is working to prejudice the reader toward the beasts over the men.