The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Beast Folk Symbol Analysis

The Beast Folk Symbol Icon

Moreau’s Beast Folk and their self-contained island community provide a parallel to human society, specifically symbolizing the tension between each individual’s primal urges and their desire to act like civilized members of society. The Beast Folk act like humans, yet are primarily animal in nature. They are conflicted between their dignified desire to uphold the Law—which encourages human behaviors and prohibits animal behaviors—and their latent animal urges to run on all fours, hunt prey, and eat flesh. In the same way, human beings, especially understood in light of Darwinian theory, are haunted by similarly animalistic urges to hunt, kill each other, and procreate. Although humans have reached a level of civilization that far exceeds the Beast Folk, the biological impulses to hunt, kill, and procreate still persist deep in the human psyche.

The Beast Folk, in this way, point to the similarity between humans and animals, arguing that the primary difference between the two—what makes humans civilized and intelligent—is social rather than biological. The Beast Folk’s dignified human qualities of speech, semi-intelligent thought, and organization all seem to be socially imbued. Although their biology has been surgically reshaped, they still must be taught by others to speak and behave. Without the social pressure of their organized society to adhere to the Law—and the social shame that comes with breaking it—the Beast Folk regress to complete animalism, losing all human qualities. As a parallel to human beings, this suggests that the qualities which make one human—civilized, intelligent, distinct from animals—are socially instilled, rather than biologically determined. Society teaches humans how to speak and behave; these are not inherent biological qualities. Thus, it stands to reason that removed from society, human beings would similarly regress to an animalistic state and be little different from the Beast Folk. This idea stands in sharp contrast with common, religiously based notions of human exceptionalism, which uphold that humans are different from and superior to all other beings. Through the Beast Folk, Wells suggests that if animals can be taught to speak or humans can become animalistic, then humanity’s intelligence and civility are not God-given traits, but the product of social forces overcoming biological urges.

The Beast Folk Quotes in The Island of Dr. Moreau

The The Island of Dr. Moreau quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Beast Folk. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Island of Dr. Moreau published in 1996.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I would not draw lots, however, and in the night the sailor whispered to Helmar again and again, and I sat in the bows with my clasp-knife in my hand—though I doubt I had the stuff in me to fight. And in the morning I agreed to Helmar’s proposal, and we handed halfpence to find to the odd man.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 12 Quotes

A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau, after animalizing these men, had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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“For every one the want that is bad,” said the grey Sayer of the Law. “What you will want, we do not know. We shall know. Some want to follow things that move, to watch and slink and wait and spring, to kill and bite, deep and rich, sucking the blood…It is bad. ‘Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?’”

Related Characters: The Sayer of the Law (speaker), Edward Prendick / The Narrator
Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 44
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Chapter 13 Quotes

But as I say, I was too full of excitement, and—a true saying, though those who have never known danger may doubt it—too desperate to die.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 48
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Chapter 14 Quotes

“You forget all that a skilled vivisector can do with living things,” said Moreau. “For my own part I’m puzzled why the things I have done here have not been done before.”

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
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“It looked quite human to me when I had finished it, but when I went to it I was discontented with it; it remembered me, and was terrified beyond imagination, and it had no more than the wits of a sheep. The more I looked the clumsier it seemed, until at last I put the monster out of its misery.”

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 56
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“[The Beast Folk] build themselves dens, gather fruit and pull herbs—marry even. But I can see through it all, see into their very souls, and see there nothing but the souls of beasts, beasts that perish—anger, and the lusts to live and gratify themselves…Yet they’re odd. Complex, like everything else alive. There is a kind of upward striving in them, part vanity, part waste sexual emotion, part waste curiosity.”

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 15 Quotes

I say I became habituated to the Beast People, that a thousand things that had seemed unnatural and repulsive speedily became natural and ordinary to me. I suppose everything in existence takes its color from the average hue of our surroundings: Montgomery and Moreau were too peculiar to keep my general impression of humanity well defined.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 64
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Chapter 16 Quotes

“Hail,” said they, “to the Other with the whip!”

“There’s a third with a whip now,” said Montgomery, so you’d better mind!”

“Was he not made?” said the Ape Man. “He said—he said he was made.”

Related Characters: Montgomery / The Young Man (speaker), The Ape Man (speaker), Edward Prendick / The Narrator
Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, Whips
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Who breaks the Law—” said Moreau, taking his eyes off his victim and turning towards us. It seemed to me there was a touch of exultation in his voice.

“—goes back to the House of Pain,” they all clamored; “goes back to the House of Pain, O Master!”

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
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A strange persuasion came upon me that, save for the grossness of the line, the grotesqueness of the forms, I had here before me the whole balance of human life in miniature, the whole interplay of instinct, reason, and fate, in its simplest form.

Related Characters: Edward Prendick / The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 74
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Chapter 17 Quotes

[Montgomery] cracked his whip in some trepidation, and forthwith [the Beast Folk] rushed at him. Never before had a Beast Man dared to do that.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law, Whips
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 18 Quotes

“Children of the Law,” I said, “He is not dead…he has changed his shape—he has changed his body,” I went on. “For a time you will not see him. He is…there”—I pointed upward— “where he can watch you. You cannot see him. But he can see you. Fear the Law.”

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 80
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We locked ourselves in, and then took Moreau’s mangled body into the yard, and laid it upon a pile of brushwood.

Then we went into the laboratory and put an end to all we found living there.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

I felt that for Montgomery, there was no help; that he was in truth half akin to these Beast Folk, unfitted for human kindred.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 20 Quotes

I was perhaps a dozen seconds collecting myself. Then I cried, “Salute! Bow down!”

[The Hyena-Swine’s] teeth flashed upon me in a snarl. “Who are you, that I should…”

Perhaps a little too spasmodically, I drew my revolver, aimed, and quickly fired…[and] knew I had missed.

Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 21 Quotes

“’We have no Master, no Whips, no House of Pain any more. There is an end. We love the Law, and will keep it; but there is no pain, no Master, no Whips forever again.’ So they say.”

Related Characters: The Dog Man (speaker), Edward Prendick / The Narrator
Related Symbols: The Beast Folk, The Law
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Beast Folk Symbol Timeline in The Island of Dr. Moreau

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Beast Folk appears in The Island of Dr. Moreau. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11: The Hunting of the Man
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...each hand like the Ape Man, since, as Prendick would later discover, most of the Beast Folk have rather crudely shaped hands and most often three or four fingers. (full context)
Chapter 12: The Sayers of the Law
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...sloth-like creature—“looking more like a flayed child than anything else in the world”—and several other Beast Folk have gathered. They offer him food. (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
All of the gathered Beast Folk join in the recitation with a ritualistic zeal. After the prohibitions of various animal actions,... (full context)
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Moreau, Montgomery, and the hound arrive in the Beast Folk ’s community. Prendick flees again, pursued by Moreau and the Beast Folk, who have obeyed... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Parley
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...find a real weapon to fight with. However, soon Moreau, Montgomery, the hound, and the Beast Folk arrive, cutting off any escape. (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 14: Dr. Moreau Explains
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 15: Concerning the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...and Montgomery joins him. Montgomery explains that he and Moreau are reasonably safe from the Beast Folk due to their limited intelligence and the Law that Moreau has implanted in their minds.... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
The island itself is home to about sixty humanoid Beast Folk , though Moreau had made twice that number in total over the course of his... (full context)
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Prendick gradually “habituate[s]” to the Beast Folk ’s appearance and behavior. Montgomery, having spent so much time around them, seems to regard... (full context)
Chapter 16: How the Beast Folk Tasted Blood
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...with the whip.” Montgomery announces that now a third person carries the whip, so the Beast Folk must respect him. The Ape Man is confused by this, indicating that he believed Prendick... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...dead half-eaten rabbit. Montgomery is alarmed by this, afraid of what could result of the Beast Folk becoming carnivorous again. Prendick surmises that it may have been the Leopard Man. Montgomery explains... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...with them, Prendick, Moreau, and Montgomery make their way to the ravine to gather the Beast Folk . The men are each armed with whip and revolver. M’ling is armed with a... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...been broken, cracking his whip and looking at the Leopard Man. Both Moreau and the Beast Folk announce that the criminal must go back to the House of Pain, seeming nearly exultant... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...considers Moreau’s cruelty, which he now sees most manifest in the conflicted psyches of the Beast Folk , trapped between human dignity and animal urges. Moreover, Moreau’s cruel work seems without purpose,... (full context)
Chapter 17: A Catastrophe
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Six weeks on, Prendick’s sympathy for the Beast Folk wanes and is replaced by loathing. He longs to be returned to human civilization. (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance 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... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Finding of Moreau
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...intoxicated Montgomery set off through the forest, searching until they find a small gathering of Beast Folk who say that Moreau is dead. (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...humans if the Law still exists, now that Moreau is dead. Prendick proclaims to the Beast Folk that indeed Moreau is not dead, he has only changed shape and now watches from... (full context)
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...that they have killed each other in a violent struggle. With the help of the Beast Folk , they bring Moreau’s body back to the enclosure. The Beast Folk return to the... (full context)
Chapter 19: Montgomery’s “Bank Holiday”
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...human society. In a mad rush, Montgomery resolves to take his brandy and get the Beast Folk drunk with him in one last binge before the end. He finds M’ling and others... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...the boathouse. Montgomery is on the ground, calling Prendick’s name. There is a cluster of Beast Folk near him, but when they spot Prendick running towards them they scatter. Montgomery is mortally... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...a brief apology to Prendick and dies on the beach. As he does so, three Beast Folk emerge from the forest with hostile looks in their eyes. (full context)
Chapter 20: Alone with the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Prendick faces the Beast Folk with one broken arm and a single revolver in his pocket with only a few... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...the first chance he gets, since he represents the greatest threat of any of the Beast Folk . He draws his revolver and fires, but misses, and the beast disappears into the... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...no secure location left on the island now that the enclosure has burned down. The Beast Folk are becoming animals once again, as Moreau knew that they could, and now Prendick is... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
After several hours, Prendick emerges, finding some Beast Folk resting. He requests food and they tell him that there is some stored in the... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Reversion of the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Prendick, by his own description, becomes one of the Beast Folk . Although he has one loyal subject who believes in his authority, the Dog Man,... (full context)
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
In the first month of this period, the Beast Folk retain much of the Law. The Ape Man comes to believe that he is Prendick’s... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
However, this decorum and observance of the Law fades. The Beast Folk gradually regress back to embracing animal behaviors. They lose their ability to speak, begin walking... (full context)
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
Prendick knows that he will likely be attacked again, as many of the Beast Folk have regressed as far as the Hyena-Swine had. Though there are only twenty or so... (full context)
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
...are dead. Prendick dumps the corpses out, which to his horror are eaten by several Beast Folk , gathers some food, and sets sail into the ocean. (full context)
Chapter 22: The Man Alone
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...he says, he cannot convince himself that the people around him are not simply well-refined Beast Folk , though he knows this to be an illusion. They are human beings, rational and... (full context)