Study Guide

The Island of Dr. Moreau Analysis

  • Tone

    Journalism and Diary

    Wells uses a tone that combines the journalistic voice of a newspaper with the emotional soul-searching of a diary. We say the novel reads like something out of a newspaper because it has an eye for the facts. However, the diary aspect of Dr. Moreau comes from Prendick letting the reader in on his feelings and thoughts about certain events. Let's look at an example:

    But, in the first place, I must state that there never were four men in the dingey; the number was three. Constans, who was "seen by the captain to jump into the gig" (Daily News, March 17, 1887), luckily for us, and unluckily for himself, did not reach us. (1.2)

    Notice how Prendick takes the time to correct the facts of a newspaper article in his own story. He's detailing his dramatic escape from the sinking of the Lady Vain and quoting from another account of the event. At the same time? Seems kind of silly, right? No one in Titanic took the time to quote a newspaper while the ship gurgled its way into the frigid Arctic abyss. The effect suggests to the reader that Prendick keeps his facts straight, so we can trust what he has to say. It adds a quality of believability to the story.

    But Prendick isn't afraid to tell us how he feels either. In the quote above, it's abundantly clear that Constans's death worked out for him. In this way, Prendick's emotions balance his factual nature. When Prendick goes all "Dear Diary," he reminds us that he's a person, allowing us to develop a stronger connection with him. If Prendick told us nothing but the facts, he'd sound like one of those Disneyland automatons in The Hall of Presidents, and, man, that would be boring.

  • Genre

    Dystopian Literature; Satire; Horror; Science Fiction

    Well, This Stinks

    The Island of Dr. Moreau is an oddball in dystopian literature. You see, most dystopian novels take place in the distant, dank, and dark future.

    Take Orwell's 1984. It was first published in 1949, so the year 1984 was still a ways away. Orwell's novel tells of a world where an oppressive dictatorship uses rules and order to steal the rights of the public without them even knowing or caring. Orwell's goal is to craft a fictional future to warn his readers that this could happen one day—of course, had Orwell known the actual year 1984 would have brought us leg warmers and boy bands, he might not have found Big Brother so scary.

    Wells' dystopian novel tells of an oppressive society where rules and order are cleverly used to hide the fact that the island's populace are all animals, products of the harsh and painful realities of Moreau's nature. The kicker? The novel isn't a warning of a possible future. It takes place in the present—well, what would have been the present at any rate. It's saying that this horrible possibility isn't a possibility at all. It's already happening, right here, right now.

    Funny Because It's Exaggerated

    Wells is making fun of us. All of us. The Beast Folk represent a satirical version of humanity as a whole. Their laws both symbolize and scorn our laws, from religious tenets to social contracts. The Beast Folk's ideas of beauty—how many fingers on a hand—is meant to point the finger at how odd and inane our measures of attractiveness are.

    The final punch line: just like the Beast Folk, we pretend to be civilized and separate from our natural impulses when in reality we are just animals. Like any joke, you're invited to laugh or shake your head and wonder, "who comes up with this stuff?"

    Science Fiction + Horror = Yes, Please

    Finally, The Island of Dr. Moreau manages an excellent blend of horror and science fiction. It uses science to explore human progress through experimentation, in this case vivisection. Then it uses horror elements to question whether or not said scientific advancement is a good thing. And the blend is seamless, with each balancing and supporting the other. Think of it as a delicious genre smoothie, the kind with the perfect ratio of bananas and oranges (strawberries optional).

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Calling the book The Island of Dr. Moreau serves two purposes. The first is the same as every good title: it's there to draw you in, to entice you to read the story. Many horror stories do this by having the name of its horrific element right in the title. Sometimes it's the person, creature, or spook that haunts the tale, such as Stoker's Dracula, Poe's "The Raven," or Ridley Scott's Alien. Other times it's the location where the horror takes place like Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, or—you guessed it—Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau.

    The title also serves a second, more devious purpose, and that's to get you to think about the importance Moreau's island serves in The Island of Dr. Moreau. But isn't that kind of, you know, obvious? Yes, it is obvious, but most people only consider it obvious regarding the first purpose mentioned above—Moreau's island is the place where things go bump and boo in the night.

    But if you think beyond that initial answer, all sorts of questions open up. Why didn't he just call it the Beast Folk; they're a horrific part of the story too, right? Why is it Moreau's island in the title? Why not The Island of the Beast Folk? The book is written in the form of a kind-of-sort-of memoir, so why not title it My Time Amongst the Beast Folk, or something like that?

    We have a few suggests as to why the island should serve as the focus of the title in our "Setting" and "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" sections, but don't forget to give these questions a shot too. See what you can come up with.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    The Island of Dr. Moreau has a classic horror ending going for it. The protagonist escapes from the horrific place, survives the frequent attempts on his life, and ultimately reaches safety. And just as soon as he lets his guard down, the minute he can breathe, bam, the horror reappears and the story ends. Only the horror returns in a far subtler way than Jason Voorhees jumping out of a closet or Freddie Kruger popping up in your dreams.

    Prendick returns to London, expecting to be free of the horrors of Moreau's island. Unfortunately, as he walks through the crowded streets, he cannot

    "persuade [himself] that the men and women [he] met were not also another Beast People, animals half-wrought into the outward image of human souls, and that they would presently begin to revert,—to show first this bestial mark and then that." (22.5)

    Prendick has recognized that the horror of Moreau's society is the horror of all societies. Its members are born of beasts; civilization is only a magic trick meant to hide this truth. And when he sees society this way, "[he] look[s] about [him] at [his] fellow-men; and [he] go[es] in fear" (22.5). Like all classic horror movies, this is the twist ending, the big "gotcha" moment. The Beast People aren't gone; they're hiding in civilization's closet like a bogeyman.

    So, Prendick moves to the country to live his life in peace. There he reads books, studies chemistry during the day and astronomy at night. He does this because he thinks it must be "in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope" (22.7). This is the small light at the end of the dark tunnel, and oddly it seems to echo Moreau's reasoning from earlier in the novel.

    Moreau sought the eternal laws of nature through the creation of man as man currently is. Instead, Prendick is looking toward the stars and away from the planet to seek his answer. So, while it may be the same question that drives them, their methods are completely different. And, sometimes, the method really does make it all the difference between horror and hope.

  • Setting

    Dr. Moreau's Island and the Pacific Ocean

    And No, It Isn't Stupid Purgatory

    Say what you will about Wells; he doesn't cop-out on his endings (unlike some TV shows we could mention).

    Let's start by saying that Moreau's island isn't technically called Moreau's island. As Montgomery points out, the island doesn't have a name (2.26). Montgomery never says why this is, so the question remains open. Why do you suppose Moreau or any of its inhabitants never named the island?

    As for the place itself, it's an island in the Pacific and was born out of a volcano, meaning it's probably covered in lush tropical forest and hot springs thanks to that volcanic soil. This origin also means it suffers from the occasional earthquake and steam pockets (15.6). In short, it's just like a Hawaiian island; only the luaus are replaced with the experimental ravings of a mad genius. There are still worse places to take a vacation.

    Moreau's island embodies a dual nature. One the one hand, it's beautiful and lush, vibrant with life. On the other hand, the geological features making it lush, such as the whole volcano thing, also create a volatile and dangerous place to live. This dual nature extends beyond the land itself to the people and Beast Folk living on the island.

    We'd say more on the island's allegorical nature here, but hey, that's what our other sections are for. You can head over to our "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section to check out the deeper implications of the island. You can also go to our "Genre" section to learn more about the dystopian nature of the place and the time in which it is set. Either way, the discussion lives on.

    The Pacific / Ipecacuanha / The Lady Vain

    The Pacific Ocean as a setting doesn't really give us much to talk about in terms of set dressing. It's the ocean. It's big and blueish and there's the "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink" thing going. And, um, there are ships which people use to sail on it.

    Still, the Pacific Ocean is super important to the story. Here are some things to note. When the Lady Vain sinks, Prendick is thrust into the ocean where his fellow travelers consider eating each other before fighting to the death (like animals, perhaps?). Then aboard the Ipecacuanha, Prendick witnesses a zoo type scene with the deck "littered with scraps of carrot, shreds of green stuff, and indescribable filth" (3.7). Then there's Captain Davis, who threatens to cut out M'ling's "blasted insides" should he go to the wrong part of the ship (3.33).

    All of these aspects of the Pacific foreshadow what is to come on Moreau's island. The Ipecacuanha has given up her manmade order and reverted to a more natural chaos. Human decency has become dog-eat-dog, and the Captain's creation of his own rules reflects what Moreau has done to his island. In a way, the Pacific serves as a sort of portal for Prendick, one that takes him from the civilization of London society to the weird grotesqueness of Moreau's island society.

    In The Land of Tea Time and Big Ben

    England—particularly London—exists as a setting mostly in the imaginations of our characters. In their minds, it's everything that Moreau's island is not, namely civilization and all the perks that come with it.

    Montgomery remains homesick for the city, gossiping with Prendick about the fashions and news (4.4). For Montgomery, it's a place awash with that warm nostalgic glow. Prendick views London as a goal. Like Dorothy in Oz, his mantra throughout his adventure is, "There's no place like home; there's no place like home." For him, London is a safe haven, a way to rid himself from the chaos of the Moreau's island. He does eventually make it back to London in the very last chapter, and what does he discover…?

    Well, you'll have to read the book to find out, and then feel free to check out our "What's Up With the Ending?" section for more awesome discussion. Hint: Thomas Wolfe was right. You can't go home again.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (4) Base Camp

    The Island of Dr. Moreau comes equipped with a few obstacles for us modern readers, but it isn't too hard of a read in the long haul. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Wells' novel is the antiquated diction (that's English teacher speak for "very old word choice").

    For example, at one point Prendick says he follows Montgomery "up the companion" (3.4). In Wells' day, ocean travel was far more common than now, so Victorian readers would have instantly known a companion to be a set of stairs or ladder on a ship. In our era of airplanes, we might need a dictionary to understand that Prendick isn't climbing up some guy Montgomery had with him.

    And let's not forget that Wells studied zoology in college. So he sometimes throws down some big, beastly scientific terms like "deliquescing" (9.7). What? Did melting not sound sciency enough?

    To be fair, though, these instances are few and far between, and Wells writes with an extraordinarily modern touch. His sentences aren't ink trails that run for miles and miles, his descriptions don't overburden with pounds of details, and the pacing is closer to a Hollywood blockbuster than a Victorian novel. Compared to other Victorian novelists (we're looking at you Henry James and Charles Dickens) it feels like Wells had the modern reader in mind while he wrote.

  • Writing Style

    Bridging Victorian and Minimalist

    You can think of H.G. Wells' style as a bridge between two different camps of writing "countries."

    One the one side we have the literary realists. These guys created a style to write about life "as it is." So, the sentences run like marathon runners, the paragraphs often fill entire pages, and their details can be of such excruciating detail that you'd think you're viewing life through a microscope. George Elliot's Middlemarch is king of this country.

    On the other side you have the minimalists. They write sentences quick and clean. They get to the point. They use details, but only a few necessary ones. Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is el presidente here.

    Like Goldilocks, Wells desires the nice middle ground between the two extremes. Here's an example:

    In a minute or so the trees grew thinner, and I emerged upon a bare low headland running out into the somber water. The night was calm and clear, and the reflection of the growing multitude of stars shivered in the tranquil heaving of the sea (9.32).

    The sentences aren't long, but they don't immediately drive the point home either. They meander just enough. They also throw in a few extra details to paint the scene, but our imaginations are still given plenty of room to stretch their muscles. Sure, some of the novel's sentences and paragraphs can get a bit long, but this usually happens when Wells needs a little extra length to give the story an air of realism (not an easy task when your story has Beast Folk scampering through its pages).

  • The Island

    On an Island in the Sun

    There's no way around it: Moreau's island is a giant allegory for society. Prendick even calls the place "the whole balance of human life in miniature" (16.89). Lucky us: that means we can use the island to explore various aspects of human society and culture.

    Well, that's great and all, but why explore human society through a make-believe place? Why not just consider society as it is and skip the middle man? We could do that certainly, but there is a distinct advantage of doing so through a fictional island, what we call detachment.

    Reality is loaded with emotions, and people can get upset when they believe their worldview is under attack. Just think of any political discussion you've ever heard, ever. See what we mean? Detachment means we can set those emotions aside and see things from angles and views we might usually avoid.

    The Evolution Solution

    The Beast Folk are us, and we are the Beast Folk. The Beast Folk started as animals, and Dr. Moreau shaped them into people—well, kind of. Likewise, according to evolutionary theory, our ancestors were animals and Mother Nature shaped them into who were are now. Both processes were painful and, in the words of Moreau, "remorseless" (14.29).

    And, just like the Beast Folk, we've created a society with leaders, belief systems, and rules. The goal is to live together in a state of relative harmony—excluding, of course, the stuff we do to each other for the sake of good television. But that's totally worth it.

    That's all well and good, but there's a problem. Because the Beast Folk were once animals, their animal instincts sometimes break through, and they revert to their old, natural ways. Likewise, human beings are animals too, and sometimes we can do things to each other that are just downright bestial. Murder, rape, mob rioting, war; these are just a few examples of the old inner-animal rising to the surface.

  • Religious Allegory

    Living on a Prayer

    The Law of the Beast Folk symbolizes religion in human society. In fact, there's a slant of satire to the Law—that is, the Law is meant to mock religious rules and ceremony.

    Moreau has become a sort of god figure for the Beast Folk, and it becomes super obvious when they chant stuff like, "His is the Hand that heals" (12.21) and "His are the stars in the sky" (12.24). The actual rules of the Law, such as "Not to chase other Men; that is the Law," have the vibe of the Ten Commandments to them (12.16). As for Sayer of Law, we picture him with a sort of Moses thing going on (but that might just be us).

    All things considered, the religious satire makes sense historically. Wells's mother was domineering in her religious views, and Wells had a wee-bit of a rebellious streak in him. Also, Darwin's Theory of Evolution was still new and fresh in the Victorian mindset. People started to seriously question humanity's special, God-given place in the world and whether or not religion was still a legitimate source of morality and knowledge.

    These questions were so difficult—and the emotions so strong—that the Victorians argued and called each other names over them ceaselessly. Heck, we're still arguing and calling each other names over them, and it's been over a century.

    Still, even though this is satire, Wells was not anti-belief in God. As stated in his book The Invisible King, he had a "profound belief in a personal and intimate God." It's just that his understanding of the idea of God was complex and nuanced. He did, however, see the folly in how religion, particularly Christianity, tried to make out people to be something they aren't. As a scientist, Wells believed we are animals, and we came to be how we are today through evolution.

    As a reader, it's important to realize that simply picking one side or the other—religion or science—isn't going to work when reading a Wells novel. And that's probably for the best. This is complicated philosophy after all; we shouldn't bet on it like it's the Super Bowl.

  • Societal Allegory

    Law and Order: Special Beast Folk Unit

    Although religion might be the obvious target of Wells' satire, it's not necessarily the only target. The Law is broad enough in how the Beast Folk use it that it could be a satire of any set of rules in society.

    The Law hides from the Beast Folk the fact that they are animals. So long as they have the Law, they believe they are men. But according to Prendick, the Law conflicts "in [the Beast Folk] with the deep-seated, ever rebellious cravings of their animal natures" (15.5).

    Human society's rules work the same way. They shield us from the fact that we are animals by allowing us to pretend that, because we are a rule-governed civilization, we are something totally different. We can sit back and relax in our belief that anyone who follows the rules is better than an animal, while anyone who breaks the rules, well, they don't deserve to be taken as fully human and should be punished.

    Of course, the conflict between beast and human that Prendick mentions happens inside all of us. We just don't always like acknowledging it. Prendick says that the Beast Folk

    "were really hypnotised; had been told that certain things were impossible, and that certain things were not to be done, and these prohibitions were woven into the texture of their minds beyond any possibility of disobedience or dispute." (15.5)

    Sound at all familiar? Can you think of examples where we humans ever behave like we're "hypnotized"? Where it doesn't even occur to us that disobedience or dispute might be an option?

    Going Medieval on Them

    For a rule to work, it needs to have a punishment attached to it. Otherwise, why bother following the rule? When we're young, our mom will give us a time-out or not let us watch TV for a while when—totally hypothetical example—we've taken a pair of scissors to her expensive cashmere scarf. As we get older, society takes over where our parents leave off. Being grounded for staying out too late is replaced with fines for parking in front of a fire hydrant and prison time for robbing a bank—which is kind of like being grounded for a long, long time.

    The House of Pain is social punishment for the Beast Folk. If the Law is seen as religious, then the House of Pain is basically their Hell. Like any good hell, the details are disturbing but minimal. When Prendick first enters the place, he describes it like this:

    "There was blood, I saw, in the sink, brown, and some scarlet, and I smelt the peculiar smell of carbolic acid. Then through an open doorway beyond in the dim light of the shadow, I saw something bound painfully upon a framework, scarred, red, and bandaged. And then blotting this out appeared the face of old Moreau, white and terrible." (10.21)

    Wow, sounds pretty much like Hell to us (or the set of one of the Saw movies). Beyond that, all we know is that any Beast Folk entering the place is vivisected, without pain killers, until they are deemed more human.

    In the larger scheme of things, the House of Pain represents punishment for breaking social rules in general. But think about it: On one hand, it's our rules that give us the sense that we're more civilized than animals—who don't have any rules. On the other hand, if these rules would come to us naturally, would we need punishment to enforce them? Heck, would we even need the rules in the first place? In fact, maybe the reason fear of punishment works so well to keep us in line with the rules is because being afraid of pain is very much an animal instinct. As Moreau says, it is the "mark of the beast" (14.26) in us.

    Of course, this view of punishment totally ignores ideas like empathy and altruism. What do you think? How does something like empathy or goodwill fit in with an idea like the House of Pain?

  • Vivisection

    Tell Me if This Hurts

    Scream once for yes and twice for no.

    Vivisection* literally means to cut the living. Basically, it's when a scientist dissects an animal while it is still alive as an experiment or to study its organs. In Wells's day, vivisection was a big issue, so we'll need to dive into a wee-bitty history lesson here.

    England's Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 said vivisection was okay so long as the experiment helped save human lives and was not unduly cruel. Oh, the animal had to be killed after the procedure as well (you know, the little details).

    As is often the case with these things, groups formed on both sides of the issue and each had a different opinion of what "helping to save human lives" and "unduly cruel" meant. These two sides didn't like each other much and fought many political and legal battles over the years. Meanwhile, animals were still being vivisected all the way to the 20th century.

    Man, that's depressing stuff. Yet, Wells was able to take his allegorical island and use it to tackle the issue of vivisection from a new angle.

    When Prendick first catches Moreau experimenting on the puma, he mistakenly believes Moreau to be vivisecting a human. He runs in terror, and who can blame him? A man being dissected alive? It's an awful notion.

    Ah, but Wells has a trick up his sleeve. The person wasn't a person after all. It was an animal. So, the novel seems to be asking a question of the reader, "Why was it more horrible when you thought it was a human being?" After all, human beings are animals, too. If it's horrifying to put one animal (a human) through that pain, then why is it less wrong to put, say, a dog through the same process?

    On the other hand, evolution and nature are, as Moreau puts it, "remorseless" (14.29). On the evolutionary scale, animals are forged into their current shape by nature, and pain is simply an evolutionary trait to respond to nature. Why should our treatment of other animals be any different? And who is to say that an animal's pain is the same as a human's pain?

    Like any good author, Wells does not provide his readers with easy answers. Instead, he offers them a place to ponder the questions. So, the questions are then left up to you, the reader. What do you think?

    * An important note: Today, the word vivisection can sometimes be used to describe any experimentation on animals. We're discussing it here as it would have been discussed in Wells' day. You can find out more about vivisection, both the historical and current meanings of the term, at encyclopedia.com. And, of course, The Island of Dr. Moreau works great as a starting point for considering modern day animal experimentation as well.

  • Narrator Point of View

    First Person (Central Narrator) / Edward Prendick

    H.G. Wells wrote The Island of Dr. Moreau in a first-person central narrator voice. Now that's a whole bunch of words, but grasping the meaning is pretty easy once you break it down. So let's do that with the following example:

    I felt I had [Montgomery] at a disadvantage, had caught him in the mood of indiscretion; and, to tell the truth, I was not curious to learn what might have driven a young medical student out of London. (4.18)

    We can tell this is first-person right away because the speaker refers to himself as "I." It's that simple: first person equals the "I" pronoun. Done and done. We can tell this is a central narrator because the events are happening to the person telling the story. The narrator is at the "center" of the action, and we also get information regarding his feelings and thoughts. In the case of the example, he isn't curious to learn Montgomery's secret and feels he has his friend at a disadvantage.

    Well that wasn't so tough, was it?

    The advantage to this style is that you get to experience everything with the narrator: his actions, fears, joys, and thoughts. Like him or not, you really get to know Prendick by the end of the novel.

    A possible downside is that story cannot inhabit the view of Dr. Moreau or Montgomery, or better still one of the Beast Folk. This can be frustrating when Prendick doesn't receive information about those characters that we might want. In the example above, Prendick may not be curious why Montgomery had to beat feet out of London, but we might be. Come on, what did he do that was so bad that he could only find a home with Dr. Moreau?

    We call this a Tootsie-Pop question, for the world may never know.

    • Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

      Voyage and Return

      Anticipation Stage and 'Fall' into the Other World

      Prendick finds himself in the completely alien world of the Pacific (alien to him at least). The ocean serves as transportation to Moreau's island, almost like a certain wardrobe from a certain fantasy novel.

      Everything about his new surroundings confounds Prendick and his worldview. He can't understand why Captain Davis treats people as he does. He doesn't understand what it is about Moreau's men that give him "a spasm of disgust" (6.4). Even Montgomery and Moreau, two men he shares much in common with from occupation to nationality, are utterly foreign to him. Between Moreau's secrecy and Montgomery's secret past, everything about everything seems to be, well, weird.

      Initial Fascination

      Prendick is a scientist at heart, so he almost can't help but delve into the mysteries of Moreau's island. He wonders what Moreau is up to, and why his helpers are physically disfigured. He also can't understand what Moreau is doing all the way out in the Pacific. Why didn't he just stay in England? After all, what's wrong with a little vivisection? You've heard the old saying about curiosity and its effects on cats, right?

      Frustration Stage

      Once Prendick believes he's next on Moreau's chopping block, the initial fascination ends fast. As he learns more and more about the Beast Folk, he begins to loath what Moreau has done on the island. Worse, Prendick sees the torture the poor Beast Folk have to endure and sympathizes with them.

      Still, he is also repulsed by how they look and how they represent the utter disregard for nature as he knows it. After witnessing the fate of the Leopard Man, Prendick claims to have "lost faith in the sanity of the world when [he] saw it suffering the painful disorder of the island" (16.92). Yeah, we'd qualify that sentiment as frustrating.

      Nightmare Stage

      Moreau dies, and the nightmare begins. Prendick is left alone on the island as Montgomery dies and then even his companion, Dog Man, dies. The Beast Folk begin to revert back to their animal selves, and the whole island becomes a beastman-eat-dog kind of situation. It's survival of the fittest, the ultimate evolutionary test.

      Thrilling Escape and Return

      Prendick returns to the very ocean that almost claimed his life in the first place. There's a certain poetry to the whole situation, isn't there? The very ocean that brought him to the strange world Moreau created is the only route by which he can leave it behind. And so Prendick is picked up by another ship and brought back to England.

      Unfortunately, Prendick has been scarred by his time on Moreau's island. Now every Londoner he bumps into reminds him of one of Moreau's beastly creations. Not finding solace in the hustle and bustle of ye old London town, Prendick moves to the country and takes up astronomy. Unable to find peace in this world, he looks beyond it, perhaps initiating another voyage—but an inner journey this time, the kind where you get to stay home for it.

    • Plot Analysis

      Exposition (Initial Situation)

      Voted #1 Worst Vacation by Fodor

      This story is science fiction, so a lot of exposition will be needed to explain all the strange happenings to follow. In the case of The Island of Dr. Moreau, it's almost the entire first-half of the novel. Seriously, there's a lot of exposition to be had. It includes Prendick's misadventures at sea, his time aboard the Ipecacuanha, coming to the island, and then realizing things aren't all tropical vacay in Moreau's abode.

      We can tell this is the exposition because Prendick sets up all the information we'll need to understand the novel: setting, characters, relationships, and, best of all, the mystery of the island.

      Oh, a word of warning. Prendick will keep explaining stuff throughout the novel; this is a natural byproduct of good science fiction, and Prendick's a bit yappy anyhow. However, the plot's exposition ends when setting up the situation gives way to letting the conflict kick into high gear. For our money, that's the end of chapter nine—just after Prendick's run in with Leopard Man.

      Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

      The Muppets' Scary Cousins

      At the beginning of chapter ten, Prendick discovers Moreau experimenting on the puma, and the action begins its steady rise toward awesome. The rising action includes Prendick's escape to the Beast Folk's village, his confrontation with Moreau, Moreau's explanation of his experiments, and the hunting of the Leopard Man.

      We can tell this is rising action because the events get more exciting, the stakes get higher, and the conflict between Prendick's civilized mindset and Moreau's brave new world takes center stage. In short, it's the part of the novel where the pages practically turn themselves.

      But wait a second. If this is the rising action, then why does it include scenes like Moreau explaining his experiments or Prendick discussing the Beast Folk? Shouldn't that be considered exposition, too? Well, these scenes are exposition in the sense that they expound information. True. But they are not exposition in terms of plot structure because the information they give us doesn't set up the mystery. Instead, they complicate the mystery, making it more exciting and intense.

      Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

      Man Versus Puma This Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

      The climax is the turning point, the moment where everything changes in the story. Chapter seventeen and eighteen are just that. In these chapters, the puma escapes, Moreau confronts it, and the two end up killing each other. It may seem like more action—and it is—but this action has some earth-shattering consequences for our island inhabitants.

      We can tell this is the climax because everything beforehand led up to these moments. For example, it's the reason Wells mentioned that puma over and over and over and over again (this is what English teachers worldwide have dubbed foreshadowing). Also, everything that happens afterward results directly from these events. Speaking of which, if you would please direct your attention to the section below….

      Falling Action

      You Don't Get to Go Home; And You Have to Stay Here

      With Moreau dead, Prendick decides to bail on the whole island scene. This starts the falling action because it's the final, suspenseful push of the novel where we aren't sure of the protagonist's ultimate fate. If this were a Shakespearean tragedy, everyone would start dying at this part of the story.

      And wouldn't you know it, everyone starts dying. Montgomery dies. M'ling kicks the bucket. The Sayer of the Law goes the way of the dodo. The Fat Lady sings for Prendick's companion, Dog Man. Hyena-Swine is put down. The rest of the Beast Folk either die or revert to their animal states. With all this death, one lingering question still invests us in the novel: will Prendick escape the island or not?

      Resolution (Denouement)

      Welcome to London Town

      Resolution comes when that last question is answered. Basically, it's answered in the final chapter, and the answer is yes. Prendick escapes and travels back to England where he lives the rest of his life in peace, though he is still haunted by the memories of Moreau's island. With Prendick in England and everyone else dead, all of the plot lines revolve themselves nice and neatly.

    • Three-Act Plot Analysis

      Act I

      Act I lasts from the beginning of the book to the point when Prendick discovers the vivisection of the puma (whom he takes to be human) and flees from the company of Moreau and Montgomery. The stage is set—a lonely island in the midst of the Pacific—the players are introduced—both the main actors and the beastly secondary players—and the conflict is in full-swing. There's no going back when Prendick discovers that he's shipwrecked himself right onto the scene of a horror-movie.

      Act II

      Act II begins when the protagonist is introduced to the Beast People and things go from bad to worse. Although Prendick finds out what is happening on the island, the situation unravels as the Masters lose control of the Beasts and the relationships between everyone are strained and polarized (which is a fancy word for something becoming more extreme). The act ends with the death of Moreau and Prendick's realization that given Montgomery's drinking problem, he's now the sharpest knife left in the drawer and that it's up to him to salvage the whole mess.

      Act III

      Act III is the act that resolves everything. Prendick is left by himself on the island, thanks to his pals Montgomery and M'ling going off and dying and his loyal companion Dog-Man kicking the bucket as well. Our protagonist is alone amongst hostile creatures that are getting wilder and more dangerous by the day and without Bear Grylls' mad skills at that. Lucky for him, a dinghy washes ashore with two corpses inside (not so lucky for those guys). Not feeling particularly picky, Prendick takes the boat and manages to get picked up by a ship. He returns to England, alive but emotionally scarred by his experiences.

    • Allusions

      Literary and Philosophical References

      • "Bluebeard" by Charles Perrault (7.10)

      Historical References

      • The Medusa shipwreck (1.1) 
      • Tottenham Court (2.21) 
      • Gower Street (2.21, 10.7)
      • The Royal College of Science (6.14)
      • Huxley (6.14)
      • Mahomet's houri (15.26) 
      • Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff (16.9)