The Island of Dr.moreau: Summary:chapter 16-22
XVI. How the Beast Folk Taste Blood.
Armed with revolvers and a whip, Prendick and Montgomery hike out to view the fumarole and hot spring. They see small pink animals with long hind legs, which Moreau made from beast folk offspring and released in a failed attempt at meat to hunt (for the humans—the Law prohibits the beast folk from eating meat, though they sometimes ate their offspring). They also see a tree that has been deeply clawed—a violation of the Law, “Much some of them care for it!” scoffs Montgomery. Then they encounter the Ape-man and the Satyr, a chimera of an ape and a goat, who salute Montgomery as “the Other with the Whip.” Montgomery warns them that there is now “a Third with a Whip,” but the beast folk are confused because they thought that Prendick was “made” as they were. Also, they saw him “bleed” and “weep,” which Montgomery and “the Master” never do. The two discuss their perplexity as Montgomery and Prendick walk away.
Returning to the enclosure later in the day, they come across a dead rabbit that has clearly been eaten. Montgomery is shocked—even more so when Prendick tells him about the dead animal he saw on his first day on the island. Montgomery gives “a long, low whistle”—he is clearly troubled when Prendick reports that he saw the Leopard-man drink from a stream by lapping. Montgomery loads his revolver, explaining that the beast folk “are all supposed to have a fixed idea against eating anything that runs on land. . . . We must put a stop to this. I must tell Moreau.”
Moreau, when he hears of these developments, is more alarmed than Montgomery and decides that they must make an example of the Leopard-man, who he thinks is the lawbreaker in this instance. He blames Montgomery for not having given up meat, as Moreau did, and Montgomery admits that he was a “silly ass” for teaching M’ling to skin and cook rabbit. In the afternoon, armed, the humans go to call the beast folk together. M’ling carries a hatchet and coils of wire. In a bowl-shaped clearing, Moreau, his “white-fringed face grimly set,” sounds a cowherd’s horn, and soon the beast folk begin to assemble. They “cringe towards Moreau and chant” the part of the Law: “His is the Hand that wounds; His is the hand that heals.” They kneel and throw sulphur dust on their heads as Moreau takes attendance. Four are missing, so Moreau sounds the horn again, and eventually the missing creatures slink in, including the Leopard-man. Moreau instructs the Sayer of the Law to repeat it and stops him after “not to eat Flesh or Fowl.” The beast folk are clearly terrified when Moreau asks who among this has broken this rule, and the Leopard-man cringes “with the memory and dread of infinite torment.”
“Who breaks the law,” Moreau begins, “a touch of exultation in his voice,” and the beast folk finish, “Goes back to the house of pain, O Master!” In torment, the Leopard-man leaps at Moreau, then flees. Chaos breaks out, and the humans chase the Leopard-man, who runs on all fours through the canebrake. Prendick is soon exhausted but keeps running for fear of being left with the beast folk. At last, the Leopard-man is trapped on the shoreline, the chants of “Back to the House of Pain!” in its ears. As Prendick approaches, he sees in its eyes very human terror and, on impulse, he shoots it between the eyes. As it dies, the Hyena-swine, overcome by bloodlust, flings itself on the body, “thrusting thirsty teeth into its neck” as Moreau yells, “Don’t kill it!” and the other beast folk press close. Moreau whips the Hyena-swine off and complains that he wanted the Leopard-man. “I’m sorry,” Prendick says, though he is not. Moreau orders the Bull-men to take the body out to sea as the “intensely excited” beast folk look on. Prendick is moved to pity: Here, he believes, is the “whole balance of human life in miniature,” with its fears and pains that Moreau has forced upon animals previously immune to it: “I had not thought of the pain and trouble that came to these poor victims . . . they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand.” Moreau’s cruelty lies largely in the “wantonness” of his experiments: He conducts them for selfish curiosity, not for any higher purpose. Had Moreau’s motivation been hate, Prendick could understand. Had it been “any intelligible object,” Prendick might sympathize. But Moreau is “so irresponsible, so utterly careless,” driven by “mad, aimless investigations” that cause great suffering.
The wild events of this chapter lead Prendick to feel pity, sympathy, and even a sort of kinship with the Leopard-man, who once hunted him. Simultaneously, these events create a gulf between Prendick and Moreau (and, by association, Montgomery) that will not be bridged during the novella. Implied in Prendick’s judgments is the idea that animals, because they do not carry the burdens of reason, are “as happy as living things may be” in their adaptation to their surroundings. Moreau’s terrible experiments make the beast folk unsuitable for the environments and habits that nature had adapted them to. Moreau, in his arrogance, is not pursuing Nature, as he claims earlier in the novel, but exalting himself above it, violating it, to the pain of many.
XVII. A Catastrophe.
Six weeks pass, during which Prendick’s reactions to Moreau and his work distill into “dislike and abhorrence.” He begins to plot how to get away from the island and back to the “sweet and wholesome” society of people. He avoids Moreau, Montgomery, and the beast folk and spends watching for a ship to pass by. Then, seven or eight weeks after his arrival at the island, a disaster occurs. Early one morning, Moreau heads into the lab, greeted by the shrieks of the puma, “an angry virago.” Suddenly, Prendick hears a cry and sees a face, “not human, not animal, but hellish, brown, seamed with red branching scars, red drops starting out upon it, and the lidless eyes ablaze.” The half-transformed puma, swathed in bandages, has torn the fetters from the wall, attacked Moreau, and escaped the lab. As Prendick avoids the monster’s frantic actions, he falls and breaks an arm. Moreau, bleeding from a gashed forehead, gives chase, and Montgomery binds up Prendick’s arm before going after Moreau. He returns, having failed to locate the doctor. Anxious and pale, Montgomery takes a revolver and resolves to find and aid Moreau. He leaves another revolver with the wounded Prendick, who waits and soon hears shots. Shortly after this, Montgomery rushes back to the room, with M’ling in tow, “dark stains” on his jaws.
Montgomery is panting, panicky, and in need of brandy; he has not found Moreau. The beast folk, he reports, are “all rushing about mad.” He wandered, calling for Moreau, and came across M’ling, who was gathering firewood. They saw two beast folk, who flee them “guiltily,” and they check the ravine to find that the dens are emptied. Then they are attacked by two of the swine-men, whom Montgomery shoots. He forces M’ling to return to the enclosure with him, and he must shoot other beast folk on the way. Montgomery drinks quickly and heavily.
The escape of the tortured puma is the turning point of the plot. Moreau’s control, which has thus far managed the beast folk, is in peril. As this chapter ends, the doctor is injured and unaccounted for, Montgomery is anxious and on his way to drunkenness, and Prendick is asking, “What does it all mean?” but finding no answer. Readers may recall the gathering of the beast folk, the Leopard-man’s flight, and the reaction of his companions and realize that these dire events, despite the lull of more than a month since Moreau reestablished control, were a mere prelude to the events about to unfold.
XVIII. The Finding of Moreau.
Prendick forces Montgomery to stop drinking, and they eat to gather strength before going out to search for Moreau. M’ling leads the way down the trail, but they stop when they hear voices arguing: “He is dead.” “He is not dead.” “We saw.” Montgomery calls to the beast folk despite Prendick’s objections, and six or so come out on the trail, including the Ape-man and the Sayer of the Law. Montgomery questions them, and they point toward the place they saw Moreau’s body and ask, “Is there a Law, thou other with the Whip?” Prendick grasps the danger of the situation and immediately speaks, with as much authority as he can muster, to reassert the Law and to warn that Moreau is now above, watching and ready to punish.
The Sayer of the Law reports that the “Thing that bled, and ran screaming and sobbing” is also dead—the puma. Then he turns to Montgomery to see whether both humans agree about Moreau’s transformed state. Fortunately, Montgomery has sobered enough to play along and confirm that Moreau is “no more dead than I am.” Prendick announces that those who have broken the Law will die and orders the beast folk to take him to Moreau’s body, “the body he cast away because he had no more need of it.” On the way to the body, they see a creature in hot pursuit of one of the small rabbit-like animals; they fire at it, and it leaps at Montgomery as it dies, knocking him down. The other beast folk flee into the forest. As the Sayer of the Law creeps out of the trees, Montgomery indicates the dead creature and says, “See . . . is the Law not alive? . . . He sends the fire that kills.” Going on, they come to the bodies of the puma and of Moreau, his head “battered in by the fetters of the puma.” They order the beast folk to carry the bodies to the enclosure and place them on a pile of brushwood. Montgomery, M’ling, and Prendick lock themselves in, go to the lab, and “put an end to all we found living there.”
The irony of the nature of Moreau’s death stands out in this paragraph: He dies from head wounds inflicted by the fetters he himself installed on the puma. There is a kind of poetic justice in this death, yet it’s not clear that Moreau would have thought of himself as defeated by the puma. In the end, he asserted his dominance over the animal, not by remaking it, but by unmaking it. Dominant is a word that describes Moreau well (and certainly is inapplicable to the fearful, slobber-lipped Montgomery); without his charismatic though negative strength of will, it’s likely that the beast folk will not long fear the Law or live by it.
XIX. Montgomery’s “Bank Holiday.”
After cleaning out the lab, Prendick and Montgomery eat and wash; then they talk about their predicament. It’s almost midnight, and Montgomery is almost sober but beginning to lose his focus without Moreau’s charismatic presence. He feels that his life has been wasted and wonders, “What’s it all for, Prendick? Are we bubbles blown by a baby?” Prendick, irritated by “such ravings,” calls Montgomery to think hard about how they can get away from the island. But Montgomery demurs. First, he has nowhere to go—he’s “an outcast” in civilization. Also, who will look after “the decent part” of the beast folk? Prendick rejects this reasoning; they should burn the bodies and go, soon. Montgomery begins drinking again; after a while, he exclaims, “I’m damned!” as an idea occurs to him. In a “flash of intuition,” Prendick realizes that Montgomery intends to give alcohol to the beast folk. When Prendick tries to stop him, Montgomery draws his revolver and yells, “Get—out of the way!” He goes out with brandy and calls to the beast folk to “Drink and be men! . . . Moreau forgot this; this is the last touch.” He forces brandy on M’ling and a few others, and then he demands that they sing. They hurl insults at Prendick and reel away.
Prendick locks himself in the enclosure and goes to look at Moreau’s body, lying by the bodies of “his latest victims,” those animals that arrived at the island with Prendick. The flickering light of the paraffin lamp casts ominous shadows over the bodies, and Prendick decides that at dawn he will gather supplies, take the dingey of the Lady Vain, and trust to his fate on the sea. He hears an argument, then a “sudden wild shriek” and a gunshot. He rises in alarm, knocking over the packing cases, and sees a bonfire on the beach. Montgomery calls his name, and Prendick runs to his aid, firing his revolver into the air to scare off the beast folk. On the beach he finds M’ling dead, his hand still gripping a smashed brandy bottle, his neck bitten. As Prendick dispatches a badly-injured Wolf-brute, he hears a hissing behind him and turns to see the enclosure going up in flames, with all the supplies. He realizes that in his haste he knocked the lamp over. He looks to the boats, intending to flee now rather than wait till dawn, but they have been smashed to make wood for the bonfire. Montgomery did this, he assumes, to “prevent our return to mankind.” Yet Prendick cannot maintain his anger when he sees Montgomery, wrecked and pitiful, and hears his last words: “Sorry . . . . The last of this silly universe. What a mess—”
The sun rises, casting “a dazzling light” like “a glory on his death-shrunken face.” Prendick finds himself alone with the bodies, ashes, the burning enclosure—and then three beast folk approach with “inquisitive, unfriendly eyes” and “hesitating gestures.”
As many readers have predicted, bad goes to worse after Moreau’s death, especially after Montgomery’s weak, drunken behavior costs him and Prendick their best chance of escape. Yet Prendick emerges as both decisive and incisive in this chapter. The catastrophe finally calls him to his strengths, and had Montgomery not decided to teach the beast folk to drink, Prendick might have saved them. Prendick also shows the merciful nature that readers have seen on display toward the beast folk when he pities Montgomery despite his betrayals and idiocies, kneeling by him and holding his head as he dies.
XX. Alone with the Beast Folk.
Prendick’s arm is broken. His revolver has two empty chambers, and the tide is creeping in to prevent his escape. He picks up the whip, cracks it boldly, and calls to the beast folk: “Salute” Bow down!” They hesitate, then obey. Indicating the bodies around him, he declares, “They broke the Law” and puts a foot on the Sayer of the Law, who is among the dead. “They have been slain,—even the Sayer of Law; even the Other with the Whip. Great is the Law!” Impressed (for now), the beast folk follow his instructions to carry the bodies into the sea. The hyena-swine approaches, and Prendick picks up his gun. He knows that this creature is the primary threat to him and intends to kill it. He orders it to bow down, and when it refuses, he fires but misses, and it runs. Now Prendick knows that there is no safe place for him on the island. He sits down, “the sun beating down on my head and unspeakable dread in my mind.” Now the beast folk know that the Ones with the Whip can die.
Yet several of the beast folk ally themselves with him, including the Saint-Bernard-man, who will hardly be parted from him. Prendick believes that he could have “grasped the vacant scepter of Moreau and ruled over the beast people,” but his courage fails him. Finally, he goes to the ruins of the enclosure in search of food and rest.
It is interesting that only Moreau, with his utter lack of ethics, is able to master the beast folk. Montgomery has some compassion for them; coupled with his familiarity with them, his compassion—his willingness to see them as he sees himself—leads to his death. Prendick seems to rise to the challenge of their doubts, but then he collapses into exhaustion and despairs, calling himself a “mere leader among my fellows.” He, too, associates himself with the beast folk rather than distinguishing himself from them. When he approaches the beast folk on the beach after the bodies have been disposed of, none salutes or bows, and he feels “too faint and weary to insist . . . I let the moment pass.” Readers may consider the implication that egotism and an abandonment of what is thought of as ethical and civil behavior are necessary for the mastery of others.
XXI. The Reversion of the Beast Folk.
Prendick awakes at night, his arm aching, his revolver still in his hand. He hears voices and then becomes aware of “something breathing” and crouched by him. At first fearful, he realizes that it is the Dog-man, who says, “They say there is no Master now. But I know, I know. I carried the bodies into the sea, O Walker in the Sea! the bodies of those you slew. I am your slave, Master.” Prendick pats the Dog-man just as he would a dog and then asks for a report on the other beast folk. Most believe that the Master is dead but still pledge to follow the Law, even in the absence of the threat of the House of Pain. “Presently, you will slay them all,” the Dog-man avows, and Prendick, to reassure him, agrees, “after certain days and certain things have come to pass.” He orders the Dog-man not to tell that others that he is the new Master until “their time is ripe,” and he advises the Dog-man that one beast folk must die as soon as possible—the Hyena-man.
Together, they walk to the ravine, where Prendick addresses the beast folk. He warns them that the House of Pain will be rebuilt and the Master will return. “They were staggered at my assurance,” he notes. “An animal may be ferocious and cunning enough, but it takes a real man to lie.” He persuades the doubtful beast folk and then stays within the safety of the group for about ten months, a period that he chooses not to detail in his notes because he would “cheerfully give my right hand to forget.” He mentions occasional skirmishes during which the Dog-man’s “loyalty was of infinite service.” Prendick, with his hatchet and his cleverness, attains “something like pre-eminence” among the beast folk; yet he must watch constantly for the Hyena-man. He gets to know many of the beast folk well during this time and catalogs his observations of them, noting especially the affectionate “little pink sloth-creature” and the Monkey-man, who assumes he is Prendick’s equal because they both have five fingers per hand.
Still, by May, Prendick witnesses a falling away from the Law. The beast folk regress in “their speech and carriage,” their language, once “clear-cut and exact, softening and guttering, losing shape and import, becoming mere lumps of sound again.” They walk erect with increasing difficulty and soon give it up, ashamed. The Dog-man becomes more dog-like. Prendick moves to a shelter in the ruined enclosure, which the beast folk still fear, and records their continued regression toward their original states, as Moreau’s experiments in plasticity fail.
The Dog-man continues to stay with Prendick and protect him. Each day, Prendick watches the sea, spotting sails several times but never drawing any attention despite the signal fire he keeps ready. He reasons that anyone who sees the smoke must attribute it to the volcanic activity on the island. In the fall it occurs to Prendick to construct a raft; when it is complete, he is “delighted” with the achievement—till he realizes that he constructed it inland. It falls apart as he drags it to the sea. After this setback, Prendick is so discouraged that he merely sits on the beach, obsessed with “the water and the thought of death.”
The danger from the reverting beast folk grows, and one day Prendick is resting in the ruins of the enclosure when the pink sloth-creature nudges him. It can no longer speak, but it moans and guides him to the forest where he finds the Dog-man, slaughtered, and the Hyena-swine feasting on the carcass. It crouches to attack Prendick, who shoots it almost as they collide. It dies mid-leap—“the first,” Prendick knows, “of the series of relapses that must come.” He burns the bodies so no other beasts will eat them and wonders whether he should trap and kill all the beasts, now that there is no longer a community among them.
Now that the Dog-man is gone, Prendick sleeps by day and keeps the fire, which now frightens the beasts, going each night. He tries again to build a raft but fails. One day he spots a sail and watches it all day. In the morning, it’s still there, sailing “strangely.” When it drifts near the island, he sees that two men site it and hails them but gets no response. A “cold, vague fear” prevents Prendick from swimming to the little boat, but by afternoon the tide brings it to the beach. The men are dead—mere bones and rags. One had red hair, like that of Captain Davies. Three of the carnivorous beasts slink toward the boats, so Prendick leaves them the bones and flees. He spends the night between the reef and the island, sneaking to the stream to get fresh water, fruit, and small game. He is out of bullets now. The time to take his chances on the sea has come.
Though Prendick’s situation deteriorates during this chapter and the dangers around him increase, there are nevertheless touches of humor, as readers might expect in a satire. In particular, the character of the Dog-man provides humor because, even while he is still largely human, he is so very canine. He worships Prendick and believes that “the Master” can do no wrong and is untouchable: “What the Master wishes to kill, the Master kills,” he states with “a certain satisfaction.” His obedience is unwavering (“The Master’s will is sweet”), and his loyalty is “of infinite service” to Prendick. Yet like all the beast folk, the Dog-man reverts: “day by day he became dumb, quadrupedal, hairy. I scarcely noticed the transition from the companion on my right hand to the lurching dog at my side.” And, of course, the Dog-man dies for the Master, defending him against his enemy and turning the tone from darkly humorous to tragic, for now Prendick is truly alone among the beasts.
XXII. The Man Alone.
Prendick leaves in the evening and is soon away from the island: “The sea was silent, the sky was silent. I was alone with the night and the silence.” For three days he drifts, rationing his food and water and “meditating upon all that had happened to me,—not desiring very greatly then to see men again.” On the third day he is rescued, dressed only in “one unclean rag,” hair matted, and seeming to his rescuers mad. The captain listens to his story but doesn’t believe it, so Prendick decides to claim that he remembers nothing of the year after the wreck of the Lady Vain. In fact, he finds that he must “act with the utmost circumspection to save myself from the suspicion of insanity.” He thought that he would feel safe once he was among people again, yet he seems to have “caught something of the natural wildness” of the beast folk. Even several years after his escape from the island, Prendick reports feeling “a restless fear . . . such as a half-tamed lion cub may feel.”
Once he is home in England, Prendick has sessions with “a mental specialist” who had known Moreau and who only half believes him but at least helps him with his fear. Usually, Prendick reports, he is able to keep the memories of the island at bay, but sometimes they overwhelm his so that he seems to see “the animal . . . surging up” in the people around him. Life in London proves too trying for Prendick, who moves to an isolated country home and lives rather among books. There, he reads and studies chemistry and astronomy, the latter science providing him with “a sense of infinite peace and protection.” He believes that in “the vast and eternal laws of matter,” and not in the brief lives of humans, exists something that can give solace and hope to “whatever is more than animal within us.”
Prendick returns to London in some ways the same man as when he left it: Still a bit timid, still easily overwhelmed by emotion. But the source of his hesitant personality seems to have shifted; his doubts, fears, and anxieties are now bare and exposed because he cannot help but see the beast obscured by social niceties, by business and education and charitable acts. Now, when he moves among people, he sees “prowling women” who “mew” after him, “furtive, craving men” eyeing him jealously, and “pale workers . . . like wounded deer dripping blood.” Worse still are “the blank, expressionless faces” of people in the cities, who seem “no more my fellow-creatures than dead bodies would be.” But worst of all is Prendick’s worry, which he suppresses as he is able, that even he “is not a reasonable creature, but only an animal tormented with some strange disorder in its brain which sent it to wander alone . . . .” Readers may find Prendick’s comment that his story ends in “hope and solitude” perplexing and perhaps even disingenuous, after his lengthy description of how difficult it is merely exist among other people.