The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Summary and Analysis of Chapters IX-X


Prendick walks until the jungle has muffled the puma's cries. Resting in the shade, he begins to doze off. He awakes to see a man on the other side of the stream, down on all fours and sucking the water. Leaning forward, he draws the attention of the man, who stands up guiltily. Prendick notices that his legs are barely half the length of his body, and he seems as ill-proportioned as the other natives. The man slinks away, but Prendick is suddenly and violently aware of his vulnerability in the wilderness. The strains of the puma again reach his ears, however, and he turns away from them and goes deeper into the jungle.

Hidden in the undergrowth, he happens upon three grotesque people with pink skin and bristly hair on their foreheads, dancing and chanting indistinctly. Prendick finds that in each one, there is the unmistakable mark of the hog in countenance, gait, and manner. As he begins to head back to the enclosure, he becomes aware of somebody stalking him. Dusk is turning to night, and Prendick rushes through the undergrowth in a panic, hearing his pursuer crash after him. He picks up a rock and readies it in his kerchief like a makeshift sling, at which point he hears his antagonist stalk away. Coming out onto the beach, he hears his pursuer once more.

Prendick finally loses his nerve entirely and sprints along the sand in terror, hearing the quick patter of footsteps getting closer and closer. Exhausted, he turns suddenly and swings the sling, connecting with the forehead of his enemy. The thing, which had been running on all fours, staggers into him and then collapses face down on the sand. As Prendick sits panting beside the unconscious form, he hears his name called from far along the beach.


Prendick follows a light back to the enclosure. He staggers up to Montgomery, who has been calling his name. He seems quite anxious that Prendick went out by himself about the island, but seeing him on the verge of collapse, Montgomery sits him down and administers some brandy. Having recovered somewhat, Prendick begins to question him about what he saw in the jungle and the thing that hunted him. Montgomery, however, tells him that it must have been his imagination. Prendick is quite distraught, and Montgomery finally coerces him into taking a sleeping draft.

He groggily awakens to broad daylight, falls out of his hammock on all fours, and begins to eat the meat set before him. Montgomery pokes his head in from the inner door to check up on him, but as he closes the door he forgets to lock it. Prendick suddenly remembers what happened the night before, and as it hits him he suddenly hears an agonized cry from within the enclosure--this time it is a man's voice. As soon as he realizes what kind of being he is hearing, Prendick storms into the inner section of the enclosure. He rushes past a startled Montgomery and catches a glimpse of a red, scarred, bandaged form on a bed before Moreau appears. Moreau seizes Prendick by the shoulder and hurls him back out into his room, slamming and locking the door behind him.

As Prendick gets up, it suddenly occurs to him that if Moreau is indeed practicing vivisection on human subjects, his own life may be in danger.


Prendick displays an almost bestial terror in his flight, abandoning his reason for the mad, blind panic of the sprint along the beach. The Beast Man that pursues him is also the first to be openly aggressive. Wells continues to mix man and animal by leading Prendick farther and farther into the Beasts' world.

The appearance of the Swine Folk is also significant, because it exposes Prendick to the Beast Folk's obsession with being human. For example, when the three are dancing on two legs and one slips back onto all fours, he gets back up as quickly as possible. The description of how they recite the Law (for that is most likely what they are chanting) marks how "their eyes began to sparkle and their ugly faces to brighten with an expression of strange pleasure. Saliva dripped from their lipless mouths." Overall, the jungle scene gives the impression of the brainless satisfaction of doing something correctly, implying that the Swine Folk take pleasure in the Law only because it makes them feel like they are appropriate and normal. This sentiment conveys the desperation in their struggle to assume a semblance of humanity. (And it is a human thing to struggle in this way.)

On a related note, it is interesting that the Beast Man who hunts Prendick seems to feel shame despite his actions. He looks guilty when Prendick catches him on all fours. Before night falls, he flees from Prendick, unwilling to attack in daylight. Like the Swine Folk's recitation of the Law, this self-consciousness reveals that even if the Beast Man cannot fully control his instincts, he does at least feel ashamed of them. This is the crux of Moreau's cruelty, because all he has accomplished is to teach the animals to despise themselves without having a viable alternative.

But is this our position as human beings as well? Are we always to be ashamed of the ways we fall short in expressing our full potential as people? The Beasts are not so far from humanity as readers might hope.

In Chapter X, it is important to note that following Prendick's discovery of, as Montgomery puts it, the island's "curiosities," he now takes some brandy from Montgomery. Much as before, the act signals Prendick's increasing entanglement in the affairs of the island; the brandy is another step toward Montgomery's world. Prendick observes that Montgomery "found a certain satisfaction" in giving him the alcohol.

In this context, it is significant that the hammock dumps Prendick on all fours. Such small, subtle characterizations lead the reader to recognize connections and similarities between Prendick and the Beast Folk.

Similarly, Prendick's misinterpretation of the puma's cries as those of a man at once exaggerates and diminishes the barrier between man and beast. On the one hand, he makes the distinction that "it was no brute this time. It was a human being in torment!" On the other hand, the fact that he does not recognize it as the puma reveals that, at least to a degree, Moreau really can turn an animal into a person. In this sense, we see the narrative diminishing the boundary between man and animal. What is that intangible but unavoidable something that is unique to humans among the "animals"? If the Beasts do not count as human, what are they lacking?

Finally, Prendick's sudden horror at the idea of the vivisection of men introduces a possible hypocrisy. Exactly why is it acceptable to practice vivisection on animals but not men? Is it more gruesome to operate on an unwilling human? Is it hypocritical that Prendick can best understand the torment of the creatures when he fears he may face the same fate?

It is possible that some of these questions are misguided in that in real life, there is no such thing as the Beast Folk. To some degree readers are expected to appreciate the wildness of the tale and the mysterious impossibility of the hybrid beings without trying to identify a distinct human nature. Yet readers must wonder if, in evolutionary history, half-humans did exist, and what their moral and mental status would have been.