The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Law Symbol Icon

The Law represents religious authority and its critical role in maintaining order in human society (in Wells’s view). Moreau’s Law maintains order on the island by requiring the Beast Folk to resist their animalistic urges, replacing them with human qualities. When the Law’s moral authority is challenged and ultimately breaks down, the Beast Folk resort to their animal instincts and the order of society falls apart. This argues that, similarly, if the religious or moral authority of a human society is lost, human beings will cease repressing their most basic desires and the structure of civilization will break down.

Structurally, the Law works very similarly to Christianity. Moreau establishes himself as the ultimate authority, the creator of all things, occupying the same role as God. The Law’s dictates teach the Beast Folk how to repress their basic urges and act with civility, sounding very similar to the biblical Ten Commandments in their recitation. The House of Pain serves as the threat of punishment, negatively enforcing obedience to the Law, much like the Christian idea of hell. With this similarity, the breakdown of Moreau’s Law makes a distinctive point in the way that religion may lose its moral authority within human society. When Moreau—being both the embodiment of the Law and its source of authority—is killed, it effectively represents the death of moral authority. The Beast Folk instantly begin to doubt the Law and the most rebellious among them throw it off entirely, becoming animals once more. Though some of the Beast Folk want to maintain the Law even though they no longer believe in Moreau’s authority, they are ultimately unable to maintain this; without the ideal to strive toward and the threat of punishment, everyone gives in to their repressed urges. Thus, in human society, if the authority that ties together a religious or moral system—in Christianity’s case, the existence of God—is removed, the entire system may persist for a time but will ultimately crumble. Unless that moral system can be quickly replaced, the ordering of society will fall apart as human beings fall prey to their most basic, antisocial urges. This suggests that without a religious or moral system governing individuals, it may be impossible for human society to be anything more than a group of feral animals.

The Law Quotes in The Island of Dr. Moreau

The The Island of Dr. Moreau quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Law. 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
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 16 Quotes

“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
Explanation and Analysis:
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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
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 Law Symbol Timeline in The Island of Dr. Moreau

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Law appears in The Island of Dr. Moreau. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12: The Sayers of the Law
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...large figure, whom Prendick cannot quite make out, declares that Prendick must be taught the Law. The figure proceeds to recite a series of verses, incantations against animal-like behavior such as... (full context)
Chapter 14: Dr. Moreau Explains
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 15: Concerning the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...Moreau are reasonably safe from the Beast Folk due to their limited intelligence and the Law that Moreau has implanted in their minds. Perhaps the most important dictate of the Law... (full context)
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...them to the operating table and “stamp[s] the human form upon them.” According to the Law, the Beast Folk are monogamous. The two most fearsome of the Beast Folk are the... (full context)
Chapter 16: How the Beast Folk Tasted Blood
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
By Moreau’s command, the Sayer of the Law leads its recitation until they reach the prohibition of eating flesh. Moreau announces that this... (full context)
Chapter 17: A Catastrophe
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Finding of Moreau
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
The Ape Man and the Sayer of the Law ask the humans if the Law still exists, now that Moreau is dead. Prendick proclaims... (full context)
Chapter 20: Alone with the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...him. Hesitantly, still fearful of Prendick, the three do. Prendick proclaims that none escape the Law or Moreau’s judgment, not even Montgomery or the Sayer of the Law. Prendick orders the... (full context)
Chapter 21: The Reversion of the Beast Folk
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...Master, no Whips, no House of Pain anymore. There is an end. We love the Law, and will keep it; but there is no pain, no Master, no Whips for ever... (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 equal, and prides himself on... (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... (full context)