Study Guide

The Island of Dr. Moreau Primitivity

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Thanks to countless adventure stories in the vein of Indiana Jones, our view of primitivity can be a little skewed. When we think of the term, we imagine tribes of people still living in huts and throwing spears in the age of ipads and yogurt that comes in a tube. However, The Island of Dr. Moreau wants us to reconsider primitivity. It wants us to see primitivity not as a (low) level of tech-savviness but as something inside us. It's the primitive and savage remnants our ancestors left in our brains. And given the right circumstances, even the most civilized among us can give way to primitivity.

Questions About Primitivity

  1. Who do you think is the most primitive human character in the novel? What about the Beast Folk? How can you tell?
  2. After Montgomery's death, Prendick must survive alone on the island. Do you think he succumbs to primitivity or does he maintain his civilized ways? Something in-between? How can you tell, based on specific moments in the novel?
  3. After reading the novel, do you see primitivity in today's civilization differently? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Prendick's inability to wield the weapons of civilized society—i.e. the gun and the whip—are actually signs of his civility. It is only when he uses the gun that he begins to descend into primitivity.

The whole point here is to show us that we're all primitive, no matter how much tea and how many finger sandwiches we consume. When put in the right situation, we, like Prendick, will revert back to our basic instincts... at least eventually.

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