The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Six weeks on, Prendick’s sympathy for the Beast Folk wanes and is replaced by loathing. He longs to be returned to human civilization.
Prendick’s former rigid morality and character has now been entirely worn away and reoriented by the dreariness of his circumstances.
Themes
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
One morning, Prendick is standing near the enclosure smoking a cigarette when the Puma breaks free of its restraints, barreling into Prendick before tearing off down the beach, followed by Moreau armed with a pistol. The collision throws Prendick to the ground and breaks his forearm. Montgomery arrives and bandages Prendick’s arm, while explaining that the Puma was so strong it tore its shackles straight out of the wall and escaped. He leaves Prendick with a revolver, saying he may soon need it, and follows after Moreau.
The Puma’s escape represents the first time one of the Beast Folk has truly managed to defy “God.” The Puma has escaped the House of Pain—the Law’s version of hell—the primary means of punishment and a key facet of Moreau’s god-like authority. This critical failure is a threat to the Law’s dominion over the minds of the Beast Folk, which Montgomery immediately intuits when he hands Prendick the revolver.
Themes
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Prendick waits in his room. The island seems eerily quiet. After some time, he hears a gunshot nearby and a shaken Montgomery comes stumbling in. Montgomery exclaims that the Beast Folk have gone mad, losing all sense of civility or adherence to the Law. Montgomery and M’ling had tracked Moreau for a while, but eventually lost the trail. They wandered onward, arriving at the Beast Folk’s gathering of huts in the ravine. The huts and ravine were completely empty, abandoned.
The empty huts signal the abandonment of society by the Beast Folk. Now that the religious authority of the Law has been shaken, the order that holds the Beast Folk’s society together is swiftly coming apart. By leaving their dwellings, the Beast Folk are abandoning organized community and shelter, critical markers of human society. They are becoming feral animals once again, as the novel suggests humanity would likewise become without the ordering influence of religious authority.
Themes
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Montgomery and M’ling then retraced their route until they encountered two Beast Folk who had blood all over their mouths. Even though Montgomery cracked his whip, the Beast Folk attacked them—the first time any Beast Folk had dared to defy the whip. Montgomery shot one; M’ling killed the other. They then made their way back to the enclosure, encountering one more of the Beast Folk, whom Montgomery shot as it fled.
The defiance of the whip is the defiance of human authority, which now seems to be lost amongst the Beast Folk. This abandonment of the island’s hierarchy of authority is another critical indicator that society is breaking down. It is worth noting that the Beast Folk are not the only ones affected: Montgomery too has set to killing, even shooting down a fleeing animal. In the chaos and the fear, Montgomery himself immediately resorts to beastly behavior, suggesting that there was very little keeping him from it all along.
Themes
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
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