The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the enclosure, Prendick and Moreau sit together, Prendick still clutching both revolvers. Moreau explains that the Beast Folk are not vivisected humans made to look beastly, but rather animals who have been reshaped to resemble humans. Moreau’s life has been committed to studying the “plasticity of living forms” and he has been carrying out his research on the island for the past decade.
This realization brings both the unreliable narration and the unresolved terror of the novel to an end. Prendick is now able to see the full picture and angles his narration toward explaining the mechanics of the island, rather than emoting his own fear to the reader. Regardless, the existential horror of Moreau’s work remains.
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Prendick is rather disturbed by this, but Moreau insists that it is necessary. Society has no stomach for vivisection and so will never be able to advance in its understanding of anatomy, and thus Moreau carries on that work in its stead. Not only has Moreau managed to create a human shape, but also through excising the brain and educating through hypnotism, produced a quasi-human intelligence. Moreau regards the pain that Prendick detests as merely an evolutionary by-product, an inconsequential mechanism of self-preservation. Thus, Moreau is unbothered by the ethics of his work, only the advancement of it.
Moreau and his work stand for unbridled scientific progress with no regard for society or its ethics. Because of this, his actions will become negative arguments for why Wells believed that scientific research must be bounded and moderated by society, so that it does not become an end to itself and unnecessarily cruel. Moreau, having been isolated for so long, has lost any form of empathy for other creatures, making him something of a sociopath without the moderating influence of society to redirect him.
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Moreau recalls the early years of his research: almost eleven years ago, he and Montgomery and several Hawaiian laborers arrived and built his house and workshop. He immediately set to work, first on sheep. He accidentally killed his first subject. The second sheep survived the vivisection but seemed like a failure, so Moreau killed it as well. However, before long, he managed to make a man out of a gorilla, even teaching it to speak. After the laborers had teased it one day, it climbed a tree and made animal noises at them, which led Moreau to develop the Law and instill a sense of shame within his creations, which encourages them to strive to be human.
This killing of the sheep is the strongest indication so far of Moreau’s ruthless cruelty. When a living being who looks like a human and possesses a stunted human intelligence represents a personal failure to him, Moreau executes it. Although Moreau is aiming to make humans out of his test subjects, he will not treat them as such. Moreau thus dehumanizes the Beast Folk in his own mind, inflicting suffering and death as he wills. Outside of human society with no one to tell him otherwise, this seems permissible.
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Over time, all of the laborers either deserted the island or died. Moreau seems reticent to tell of how the last was killed, but Prendick is insistent. Moreau reveals that once he had tried making something altogether new, a beast without limbs and a contorted face. The beast was immensely powerful, traveling by rolling across the ground. It killed the last laborer, after which Montgomery shot it, and Moreau then resolved to only make humans, except for some tiny creatures.
Moreau tried to create something original and made a monstrosity, though it could be argued that the Beast Folk, made to be humans yet resulting in a hideous, unnatural crossover, are just as monstrous. It is worth noting that, like Montgomery, Moreau does not seem inclined to take responsibility for the death of the laborer that he caused. Outside of human society, there is no one to hold him accountable, once again offering a negative argument for the necessity of society to be involved in scientific research (and for outside authority to be necessary for any kind of moral standard).
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Moreau finishes by explaining that in the twenty years he has practiced vivisection—counting his time in England—he has yet to have a complete success. His Beast Folk always maintain their animalistic urges, and thus Moreau has no interest in further interacting with them. However, despite these urges, the Beast Folk desire to be human and seem to quest after that end. Retiring, Moreau willingly leaves the revolvers with Prendick as a source of comfort and sign of good faith.
This confirms the internal conflict of the Beast Folk between human behavior and animal instincts that Prendick witnessed earlier. In this way, the Beast Folk are symbolic of human beings. Like humans, the Beast Folk want to be better, but are beset by a primal nature and the urge to do shameful things—to “sin,” in the religious symbolism of the Law. It is tragic, then, that for all their striving and veneration, Moreau, their god-figure, has no interest in them.
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