The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Montgomery and the white-haired man deliberate about what to do with Prendick until Montgomery remembers a room where they can house him. The white-haired man is eager to return to his work and admits to Prendick that, though Prendick is himself a scientist, they still feel the need for secrecy initially. The white-haired man refers to the island as a sort of “Bluebeard’s Chamber.” Though curious, Prendick is understanding of this.
“Bluebeard’s Chamber” is a reference to a 17th-Century fairytale about a young woman who marries a wealthy nobleman with a fabulous estate. The man’s house contains one chamber she is forbidden to enter—when she does, she discovers the tortured bodies of her husband’s past wives. This seems to be an oddly astute and foreboding reference for Moreau to make.
Themes
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Prendick is shown to his room, which is attached to a locked enclosure. The room is simple but contains a table, chairs, a hammock to sleep in, and several books in Greek and Latin. There are two doors—one which leads into the enclosure, and one that opens to the rest of the island. The white-haired man explains that the door leading to the enclosure must remain locked shut for “fear of accidents.” Montgomery, when he thinks he is out of earshot, calls the white-haired man Moreau, a name that nags at Prendick’s memory, though he cannot place it.
The location of Prendick’s room between the forest—being, in many ways, the domain of the Beast Folk—and Moreau’s enclosure is a symbolic statement. Over the arc of the story, Prendick will be caught between Moreau and the Beast Folk, loyal to neither. He is sympathetic to Moreau’s scientific crusade yet repulsed by his cruelty; he is sympathetic to the Beast Folk’s suffering yet repulsed by their animalism and grotesque appearance.
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Prendick is reflecting on the utter secrecy of Montgomery and Moreau when the strange-looking man from the ship arrives to deliver food. Prendick notices, with some horror, that the man’s ears are pointed and covered with fur when not hidden by his long hair.
Despite earlier hints, this is the first overt clue that M’ling (still not referred to by name) may be something other than strictly-human. This also initiates one of the most terrifying sections of the story, where Prendick’s narration raises a whole host of grim possibilities as he tries to understand what the purpose of this island is.
Themes
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Prendick finally remembers how he knows the name Moreau—some decades ago, an exposé had been published regarding the work of the expert physiologist, Moreau. A vivisected dog, evidently one of his experiments, had escaped his lab and been discovered, leading investigative journalists to uncover Moreau’s horrifying research into vivisection (operating on live animals). The public had been so outraged—somewhat unfairly, felt Prendick—that Moreau had been forced to choose between giving up his research or giving up his place in society. Moreau chose to leave society, caught “under the over-mastering spell of research.”
This fully introduces the theme of the pursuit of scientific knowledge conflicting with the ethics of society. Prendick’s recollection of the public’s outrage, particularly that it was on some level unfair, indicates that he is sympathetic both to scientific progress and the need for ethical deliberation, making him an ideal lens through which to contemplate the conflict. Moreau, by contrast, is under the “spell of research” and thus has already shown his bias.
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Prendick realizes that Moreau has established the island as his new base of research and considers that such vivisection must be the fate of all the recently imported animals. Even so, vivisection, though grotesque, is a scientific pursuit and does not seem to Prendick worth all of the secrecy. His mind wanders to the possibilities of an infamous vivisectionist, the myriad of grotesque men, and this remote island.
Here too, Prendick demonstrates that he understands both the value of vivisection as a scientific pursuit as well as the ethical argument against it. This makes him as neutral a judge as could be hoped for in the conflict between them, which Wells will explore as the story unfolds.
Themes
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