The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Summary and Analysis of Chapters XI-XII


Prendick is convinced that Moreau has been vivisecting a human being and that the creatures he saw in the jungle were the results of similar experiments. Furthermore, he believes he is the next subject. He rips a leg off a chair as a crude weapon and then flings open the outer door, only to find Montgomery about to lock it from the outside. As he flees around the corner, he hears Montgomery shouting for him to stop and to cease being "a silly ass."

He heads into the jungle, but once he takes a moment to catch his breath he realizes that he has no food or even a particularly formidable weapon when compared to Montgomery's and Moreau's revolvers. He resolves to drown himself rather than give himself up, but he suddenly encounters the Beast Man who had met the launch on his arrival to the island. This Ape Man seems to feel an affinity with Prendick due to the fact that they both have five fingers. As the Ape Man leads Prendick toward "the huts," Prendick tries to engage him in conversation. But Prendick finds him to be quite unintelligent and rather parrot-like in his speech. At the end of the journey, the Ape Man has taken him to an enormous, dark, and odorous chasm that he calls "home."


Prendick notices a small, flayed, sloth-like creature beside him, who follows him into the the main chamber of the Beast Men's home. A featureless lump in the center, the Sayer of the Law, questions Prendick. Upon learning that he intends to stay with them, the Sayer announces that he must then learn the Law. He begins a call-and-response litany that turns into a feverish mess of tapping and swaying bodies and drunken chanting.

The first part of the Law consists of various prohibitions that seem to exist to keep the Beasts from reverting to bestiality, and every line ends with the refrain "Are we not Men?" The next part bears praise and reverence for Moreau, referring to his "House of Pain" and his "Hand that makes...wounds...heals. " The Sayer of the Law then inspects Prendick's hand and nails, noting how well formed they are. He mentions the punishments for those who break the Law, to which all the Beast Folk respond with a chorus of "None escape." At this point they exchange furtive looks among themselves. The Sayer of the Law explains that all of the Beast Men must fight to control different "wants," whether it be the "want to follow things that kill and bite" or the want "to go tearing with teeth and hands into the roots of things," and so on.

As the group begins a second incantation of the Law, Prendick hears the yelp of one of Moreau's staghounds, which he had heard tracking him earlier. As Moreau enters the enclosure, Prendick flees out the back, alternately impeded and helped by Beast Men. He escapes into the jungle, now pursued by both Beast Men and Moreau. He finds his way to the sea, but he suddenly decides that he is not quite ready to surrender himself to drowning; his "blood was too warm," he notes.


However much Prendick wishes to avoid the fate of Moreau's animal subjects, he behaves very much like a scared animal himself. He rushes from the enclosure, thinking that had he been locked in by Montgomery, he would have been "as ready as a hospital rabbit for [his] fate." He runs furiously into the jungle, wildly and blindly, with "chest straining, [his] heart beating in [his] ears," running from his pursuers like a fox from the hounds. It is fitting that he acts most animalistically immediately before meeting the community of Beast Folk.

Prendick's brief flirtation with the idea of suicide represents one of the few times he considers taking initiative. Perhaps the only way to defeat a bleak, indifferent world is to leave it. Yet, he cannot bring himself to take this final step, citing "an odd wish to see the whole adventure out." This cowardice, this practicality, or whatever one wants to call it (even a device used by Wells to keep the story going), despite its rationality, reveals how small a role Prendick plays in controlling his own life. In leaving things to chance or fate, the book takes another dip into fatalism.

The Ape Man is an interesting specimen, because he seems to be the closest thing to a perfect intermediary between man and animal. As an ape, he is one of the beings most similar to humans, and even Prendick admits that he "did not feel the same repugnance towards this creature that [he] had experienced in [his] encounters with the other Beast Men." In making this distinction between Beast Men in terms of humanity, Wells seems to promote the idea of a spectrum spanning human and beast. Not all animals are equally far from humanity, and if there is something undefinable that makes humans human, perhaps it is not so much a qualitative difference as a quantitative one. What does the Ape Man have, other than five fingers, that makes him more human?

Along with the Ape Man, the little sloth-creature appears to be one of the more human Beast Folk. Prendick evokes a host of emotions and associations by describing it as looking "more like a flayed child than anything else in the world." As such, it functions in giving the Beast Folk a sense of innocence that plays a large role in provoking a reader's sympathy.

The Law is a profoundly important part of the story, since it represents everything the Beast Folk strive for and, implicitly, the reasons why they cannot succeed. Even so, it seems to be imposed on them from without, from the false god Moreau. All its prohibitions, "Not to go on all-Fours," "Not to suck up Drink," "Not to eat Flesh or Fish," and so on, are examples of the instincts that Moreau has tried to repress through a combination of vivisection and brainwashing. In fact, the Law takes on religious implications in the way the Beast Folk recite it: "they swayed from side to side, and beat their hands upon their knees." The prohibitions are similar to commandments, and the way they refer both reverently and fearfully to Moreau's "House of Pain" and "Hand that makes" seems like the worship of a god. Indeed, the Beast Folk's desire to be humans functions as a motivation for a religion of sorts, in that Moreau has imposed this goal of perfection. They have been all but forced to believe in this goal, and they must trust him as they strive for it. He is both their prophet and their savior, although they find it impossible to follow his Law.

This is a kind of original sin. Humans too inevitably sin no matter how hard they try to reach perfection. It seems to be part of our nature. "Looking askance at one another" when they talk of the punishments for those who break the Law, the Beasts are all aware of the futility and ridiculousness of their situation, and like humans, they avoid confessing their sins in public.

The dependency on Moreau, the attempts to act human, the walking on two legs, and so on constitute an elaborate pretense born of Moreau's arrogance in thinking he can create humans out of animals. Perhaps Wells believes we should ask the same question of ourselves: does God require us to realize a nature that is impossible to reach while we live in an imperfect world? There does not seem to be any forgiveness in Moreau's unchristian religion--but would his religion be satisfactory if failures were confessed and forgiven but without any other changes?

Finally, Prendick's inability to take the ultimate step of suicide reflects his lack of personal initiative. No matter how far beyond his control the rest of the events on the island can be, it is always his choice and option to take his own life. The fact that he cannot do it reflects an animalistic survival instinct. But it also reflects human curiosity; he wants to see what will happen to him next.