The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Summary and Analysis of Chapters XIX-XX


Prendick attempts to have a serious conversation with Montgomery about their options now that Moreau is dead, but Montgomery refuses to act sensibly. He tries to convince Prendick to drink with him. Failing in that, he decides to give some to M'ling. Prendick tries to stop him, but Montgomery threatens him with a revolver and leaves the enclosure with bottle in hand. Prendick sees him approach three Beast Men and M'ling, offer them the drink, and then lead them howling and shouting around the island.

Prendick goes back inside the enclosure. He begins to think about his means of escape. He decides to stock the dinghy with provisions. After burning Moreau on a pyre, he will set out the next morning alone.

Suddenly he hears a clamor outside and then the crack of a pistol. He rushes out to find a struggling mass of black figures, the majority of which flee as Prendick comes charging toward them brandishing his pistol. He finds the Sayer of the Law dead atop Montgomery, fingers still at his throat; Montgomery seriously injured; and M'ling and a Wolf Man dead as well. He hears a thud and hissing behind him, and he turns to see the enclosure go up in flames. It appears that he upset the lamp in his haste, and the lamp has set the enclosure on fire.

Montgomery had also made a fire, and Prendick discovers to his horror that he has burnt the boats. His anger subsides, however, seeing Montgomery's pitiful condition. Montgomery only manages to say "Sorry" and "The last of this silly universe. What a mess--" before dying. As Prendick surveys the desolation and bleakness before him, three Beast Men approach hesitatingly yet with unfriendly bearing.


Prendick has no choice but to be bold with the Beast Men. He cracks Montgomery's whip and orders them to salute and bow down. He also explains the deaths around him as punishments for transgressions of the Law. He has the Beast Men carry the bodies into the sea.

Suddenly he hears something behind him. He turns to find the Hyena-Swine crouched together as if preparing to strike at him. Prendick is tempted to shoot the creature, but he commands it to bow down instead. When it refuses, he shoots and misses, and it runs yelping into the forest.

After he dismisses his three servants, he begins to wonder what he will do now that he is the only man left on the island--and now that the enclosure has been destroyed. He knows that the Hyena-Swine is a very real threat to his safety, and he begins to grow paranoid. A Beast Man approaches him, much in the way a dog comes to its master, but the unsettled Prendick drives it away. He spends the night in solitude. In the morning he makes his way to the home of the Beast Folk.

Tired and defeated, he asks them for food, sinking from the position of Moreau's replacement to simply a leader among fellows. He holes himself up in a hut, and then he gives in to exhaustion.


Although Montgomery is raving and drunk, he does give some surprising insight into the arbitrary pointlessness of their situation: "What's it all for, Prendick? Are we bubbles blown by a baby?" He has hit at the root of their dilemma, pointing out the helplessness that has defined his and Prendick's actions throughout the story. His dying words echo the same sentiment, a kind of disillusionment with agency that reflects just how dependent he was on Moreau to make sense of the world. The god of their world is dead, so it seems that fate is all they have left. Montgomery has forgotten his ability to take charge of his own life.

Montgomery's idea to give alcohol to the Beast Men is the lowest point of his descent into the bestiality of the island. Representing the communion that brought him and Prendick alike into the world of the island, the alcohol perhaps may be used to bring the Beast Men into a common world with the men. The idea may have some merit, since the alcohol at least frees them in the sense that it removes the barriers and inhibitions that Doctor Moreau erected; who is to say that the Beast Men will revert to animality rather than rise to some kind of better humanity in greater realization of their limits? Montgomery is unlikely to succeed, however, in bringing them to his world, but he has more chance of regressing successfully by joining theirs. This late in the story, he has become so alienated from regular men that it seems like a small step for him. It is unfortunate that once he joins them, he has little time to enjoy their company before the mix ends in disaster. .

In this context there is a parallel between the Leopard Man and Montgomery in terms of how Prendick reacts to them. Seeing that Montgomery has burned the boats, Prendick readies himself to fly into a rage, but "suddenly his hand moved, so feebly, so pitifully, that my wrath vanished." Again, Prendick finds a sense of forlorn humanity in this unassuming, unapologetic display of weakness, and it moves him profoundly.

Without Moreau or Montgomery, Prendick is the only man left on the island in Chapter XX. He has also lost his shelter, his arm is broken, and he has few cartridges left for his revolver. It hits him that he can no longer simply wait for a ship to come. Neither can he rely on anyone else to make his decisions for him. He is forced to assume responsibility for himself, in these last moments, unlike Montgomery. He has retained a vital element of human agency.

Moreau's agency, however, is not characterized by the hard-edged independence that Moreau was as the ruler. By approaching the Beast Men and asking for food and shelter, he displays a weakness and humility that reflects the softer side of humanity. Still, in doing so, he irrevocably eliminates the possibility of re-establishing the theocracy that kept the island together; his new pronouncements of an invisible Moreau are unlikely to make much of a difference. Violence is becoming rife on the island, and the Sayer of the Law is dead. The Beast Folk are unlikely to be persuaded by the softer religion that Prendick might be able to offer in exchange; they do not seem interested in sacrifice, friendship, love, altruism, or voluntarism, and it is not clear that Moreau has taught them much of these things at all.