Study Guide

The Island of Dr. Moreau Society and Class

By H. G. Wells

Society and Class

But certainly when I told the captain to shut up I had forgotten I was merely a bit of human flotsam, cut off from my resources, and with my fare unpaid, a mere casual dependant on the bounty, or speculative enterprise, of the ship. (3.34)

If we look at the ship as a society, then Prendick is easily in the lowest class. He's getting handouts, has no purpose for being there, and provides absolutely nothing to the cause. Captain Davis is, well, the captain. Lowest class individual smarting off to the highest class? Probably not the best idea.

"Law be damned! I'm king here." (5.22)

Captain Davis lets us in on one of the book's secrets. Mini-societies exist everywhere in larger society, and someone is going to be sure they are the one in charge. Oh, and Captain Davis is a jerk, but that isn't a secret.

The three big fellows spoke to one another in odd guttural tones, and the man who had waited for us on the beach, began chattering to them excitedly—a foreign language, as I fancied—[…]. (6.7)

To really belong to a society, you need to know its language. The Beast Folk are probably speaking (their unsophisticated version of) English here—they do everywhere else in the novel. But, Prendick isn't a part of their society yet, and this is represented by the fact that he assumes their language is totally foreign.

"Who are you?" said I. [The Leopard Man] tried to meet my gaze.

"No!" he said suddenly, and turning, went bounding away from me through the undergrowth. (9.14-15)

Prendick is terrified of the Leopard Man, but he doesn't understand the society he's fallen into. He actually has more control in this situation than he knows because he saw Leopard Man breaking the Law. It could almost be a perfect setup for a comedy if not for the gut-wrenching terror.

I know both Moreau and Montgomery carried revolvers; […] (11.4)

Both men carry revolvers, but it's the Law that really keeps them in power. Not that the guns aren't helpful.

[Ape Man's] eyes came back to my hands. He held his own hand out, and counted his digits slowly…. (11.15)

Every society has its own ideal image of beauty and perfection. For the Beast Folk, it's hands. Human hands with all five fingers to be exact. Ape Man obsesses over beauty images, so he's like the What Not to Wear team for Beast Folk society.

A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau, after animalising these men, had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself. (12.24)

Prendick is an outsider to Beast Folk society, so he finds it odd that Moreau would hold such a high place. For the Beast Folk, it's only natural. It'd be like a Martian coming to the USA and wondering why exactly we place the Real Housewives in the higher classes of our society. Our answer? You kinda had to be there...

That Moreau and Montgomery could be killed; that they were not to be feared: that was the burden of what I put into the heads of the Beast People to my own ultimate undoing. (13.21)

Society and class are fragile parts of our lives. So long as we don't question them, they hold up rather well. Question them, and they have a tendency to break. At this moment, Prendick doesn't know how good he's got it in Beast Folk society. Just you wait.

I thought him a fair specimen of the n****id type when I had done him, and he lay, bandaged, bound, and motionless before me. (14.31)

A little insight into the era the book was written in. Here, Moreau associates his new Beast Folk with a man of African decent. This new Beast Man will be the first of the new lower class of society because he doesn't stack up to the ideal of Western society's desired look. Think that's crazy awful? Check out this encyclopedia entry on physiognomy to have your mind really blown.

I feel as though the animal was surging up through them; that presently the degradation of the Islanders will be played over again on a larger scale. (22.5)

Society and class have their purpose. One of those purposes is to hide the fact that beneath our social molding we are all animals. Prendick believes this to be true after spending his tenure on Moreau's island. If you've ever had to work in the restaurant business, you'll believe it too.

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