The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Summary and Analysis of Chapters XIII-XIV


Prendick makes his way down to the sea. He stands at the edge of the water facing the jungle. It then occurs to him that he should try to make his way to the enclosure, find a weapon of some kind, and exact "a price for [his] life." As he heads westward, suddenly the Beast Men, Moreau, and Montgomery burst out of the trees, prompting Prendick to wade straight out into the water. Montgomery frantically asks him what he is doing, to which Prendick states firmly that he would rather die than be "tortured by you."

Moreau calmly asks him why he should think he was in any danger from them. Prendick voices his suspicions that the Beast Men were once proper men. He calls to the Beast Men, inciting them to revolt against their masters, but Moreau and Montgomery drown him out with shouting. Prendick continues addressing the Beast Men, however, telling them that Moreau and Montgomery are vulnerable and can be killed.

As Prendick's breath fails him, Moreau takes the opportunity to tell him that the creatures are in fact animals that he has vivisected to look like men. Prendick scoffs, but Moreau suddenly offers to throw his and Montgomery's revolvers down and allow him to hold them while they explain. He points out that if he had meant any harm toward Prendick, he had had many opportunities to do so already, and he reminds Prendick that he had opposed Prendick's presence on the island from the beginning. He also tells him that they did not intend for the Beast Men to join the pursuit and that he had tried to pull them off the scent for Prendick's own good. Prendick mentions the "man" he saw n the enclosure, but Moreau explains that it was the puma.

Prendick finally agrees to come with them to talk, and Moreau responds with characteristic condescension: "you have wasted the best part of my day with your confounded panic." As they set out for the enclosure, Prendick makes the following observation about the Beast Men: "They may once have been animals. But never before did I see an animal trying to think."


Prendick sits alone with Moreau, who explains the happenings on his island. First, he solicits a concession from Prendick that the thing he saw in the enclosure was indeed the puma (he made Prendick see the creature up close upon returning). When Prendick starts to talk of its suffering, Moreau becomes annoyed and cuts him short.

He next tells Prendick that all of the Beast Men were once fully-formed animals that Moreau had vivisected and altered toward a human model. Moreau talks of all the potential of vivisection, and he maintains that his goal of a permanent surgical transformation of animal to man is entirely possible. He explains that he can vivisect the mind of the animal as well as its body, and he even can teach it once its brain has been appropriately altered.

Moreau does confess that his choice of the human form as his model was somewhat arbitrary, claiming that there is a certain elegance in it that attracted him. Prendick, however, finds "a strange wickedness" in that choice. He asks Moreau how he justifies causing such agony in the name of curiosity, but Moreau dismisses the importance of pain and calls Prendick a materialist. He argues that pain is evolutionarily unnecessary, even going so far as to dabble in religious arguments when he declares that "pleasure and pain have noting to do with heaven and hell." He calls humanity's preoccupation with pain and pleasure "the mark of the beast upon them."

He then tells Prendick a little of the history of the island, noting with some wonder that it has been eleven years since he first arrived with Montgomery and six natives, one of whom was killed by a serpentine monster that Moreau created as "purely an experiment." He tells Prendick that after his first mostly successful vivisection, the creation of a Gorilla Man, he had planned to take it back with him to England to show to the community that had hounded him out. But he could not ignore the fact that the Gorilla Man was not human, and he has wanted to create a perfect transformation before going back.

He goes on broodingly about how there seems to be some bestial element that his scalpel cannot touch. No matter how well he can mimic physical and even mental form, there is always a gradual reversion in his creatures. He comments on their primitive society, however, saying that although all he can see in them is his own failure, he finds "a kind of travesty of humanity" in their affairs, describing an "upward striving in them, part vanity, part waste sexual emotion, part waste curiosity." Prendick is not happy with what he hears, but he accepts the explanation for what it is and concedes that Moreau does not wish him harm.


Unable to sacrifice himself in the noble dignity of preserving his integrity against vivisection, Prendick at first behaves like the frantic, hunted animal he is at the beginning of Chapter XIII and in the couple chapters before it. But then he decides to make a principled stand, intending to exact as much of a toll on Moreau and his followers as he can in exchange for his life. Furthermore, in this chapter he really does seem willing to drown himself. At this point, he is showing a strength of character that he seemed to lack earlier.

His appeal to the Beast Men is especially important, because it represents an attempt to break Moreau's hold over them. Their reverence seems based on the belief that Moreau and Montgomery are otherworldly and cannot be hurt. This belief only reinforces the sense of pretense and play-acting that seems to be the basis of life on the island. While the Beast Men must pretend that they respect the Law, Moreau must maintain the untarnished image of a deity. Neither side can afford to slip up if the society is to be maintained. For instance, Moreau refuses to put his hands up when he gives Prendick the guns, calling it "undignified" and motioning to the Beast Men behind him. As Montgomey puts it rather succinctly, "it's a damned silly ceremony."

Perhaps the most important line in this chapter is Prendick's departing impression that the Beast Men "may once have been animals...But never before did I see an animal trying to think." Not only does this idea foreshadow the impending revolt and reversion to bestiality, but it also ironically grants the Beast Men one of their few moments of humanity. Yet, they are trying to think rather than actually thinking. It is their peak and therefore the beginning of their end.

Chapter XIV is very important in terms of characterizing Moreau, for here he articulates his motivations and goals. He admits that he has no loftier aim to his experiments than simple curiosity about the plasticity of animal flesh and the limits of vivisection. Furthermore, his choice of a human model is, according to Moreau, entirely arbitrary, even if there is, as Prendick puts it, "a strange wickedness in that choice." The claim seems false, for Moreau would best restore his reputation if he could return with an animal made human rather than an animal made into another animal. Anyway, the important question is why it is so cruel for Moreau to impose humanity on the animals, even aside from all the pain he inflicts in the process? What is it about striving without success for humanity that makes it so awful for the Beast Folk?

Incidentally, it is worth noting that when Moreau cites the lesser successes of vivisection, he is referring to actual events. The Victorian era in England was a time in which the promises of science allowed scientists a great deal of free reign in their experiments with animals, so the idea of vivisecting animals to make them human was not as far-fetched to Victorians as modern readers, knowing something about DNA in addition to anatomy, may find it. Although it may be horrible to imagine, it was not deemed entirely beyond the bounds of possibility.

It is in Chapter XIV also that Moreau explains why he feels justified in his experiments. To him, "pain and pleasure...they are for us, only so long as we wriggle in the dust." It is interesting that he uses this philosophy to defend his experiments on animals, for even if other humans are capable of reaching this realization that pain is not real, the animals are not capable of this intellectual detachment. His perception of pain is entirely irrelevant to how the animals feel except in that he discounts the value of physical suffering.

Finally, Moreau's mention of the serpent-like creature that killed one of the natives reinforces the allusion to the Garden of Eden. Moreau admits that he should not have made it in the first place, calling it "purely an experiment." To what extent does Wells view humankind as some sort of divine experiment?