The Island of Dr. Moreau


H. G. Wells

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The Island of Dr. Moreau: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Prendick reaches the ocean and wades in, but quickly realizes that he is “too desperate to die.” As an alternative, he decides to work his way round the island to beat his pursuers back to the enclosure, where he might find a real weapon to fight with. However, soon Moreau, Montgomery, the hound, and the Beast Folk arrive, cutting off any escape.
This is a major development in Prendick’s character, the point at which he realizes that his impulse to survive is stronger than any dignity or moral surety he may possess. Though he will continue to be disturbed by the things he sees, never again does he attempt to intervene as he had aboard Davis’s ship. That moral resolution is being worn away by Prendick’s desperate circumstances and his powerlessness to affect them.
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Prendick begins wading into the sea, again seemingly resolved to kill himself, when Montgomery asks what he is doing. Prendick explains that he is obviously going to kill himself to escape becoming Moreau’s next experiment, and briefly shouts at the gathered Beast Folk that they should not fear the two humans but rise up against them. Moreau and Montgomery shout him down, and then explain—in Latin so that the Beast Folk cannot understand—that there has been a major misunderstanding, which Moreau will explain if Prendick comes ashore.
If Prendick’s resolve failed the first time, it seems likely that it would fail again, though Montgomery offers a way out. Prendick’s call to the Beast Folk to rise up against their rulers has a distinctly class-oriented ring to it. Wells, as a committed socialist, worked such ideas into his fiction on multiple occasions, perhaps most notably in his classic, The Time Machine.
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Prendick refuses until Moreau and Montgomery drop their weapons in the sand, offering to let Prendick have them if he will only come ashore and listen. They point out that they could have easily killed Prendick earlier, had that been their intention, or restrained him in his sleep. This is enough for Prendick, and he warily emerges from the ocean after Moreau and Montgomery have retreated up to the tree line. One of the Beast Folk briefly begins to follow Prendick again until Montgomery cracks the whip he has been holding.
Moreau is an authoritarian figure through the eyes of the Beast Folk, yet he is remarkably trusting towards a fellow human. This complicates his position as the story’s villain, since, though cruel to the Beast Folk, he is quite accommodating of Prendick. By avoiding a simple caricature of the evil scientist—since Moreau represents science unbridled by ethics—Wells provides a necessary nuance to the conflict between scientific progress and society’s conscience, avoiding simple categorizations of “good” and “evil.”
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