The Island of Dr. Moreau

Themes and Colors
Scientific Knowledge and Ethics Theme Icon
Religious Authority and Order Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Morality, Survival, and Circumstance Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Island of Dr. Moreau, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

H. G. Wells’s novel tells the tale of Edward Prendick, a natural historian (a type of biologist), who, after surviving a shipwreck, arrives on Dr. Moreau’s island. There, Moreau is carrying out experiments in vivisection—the dissection of live organisms—in secret, safely away from the prying eyes and petty ethics of human society. The scientist is consumed with his “research,” brutal experiments in which he tries to make human beings out of animals by…

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Surprisingly, Moreau’s island, populated entirely by Beast Folk save for three humans, begins as a relatively civil place (aside from Moreau’s work). The Beast Folk live in a peaceful society, despite the constant animalistic urges they feel to let loose and hunt prey. This civility is due entirely to the Law, a system of rules and beliefs that Moreau has devised to govern their behavior. The Law effectively functions as a religious authority…

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Moreau’s whole life has become devoted to creating perfect human beings out of animals through the practice of vivisection. Though it seems a tall order, by the time Prendick arrives, the rogue scientist has already created enough Beast Folk to form a small society of creatures who blur the line between human and animal. They possess animal body parts nipped and tucked to resemble the human form and are capable of rudimentary thought and…

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Although Prendick is initially horrified by Moreau’s actions and the cruelty with which he treats the Beast Folk, when it becomes a matter of survival, Prendick commits many of the same acts. This suggests that, especially in survival situations, morality is relative to one’s circumstances, rather than a rigid set of universal dictates.

Initially, Prendick is presented as a man with a firm moral conscience. In the first chapters of the story, having…

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