At the end of The Island of Doctor Moreau, after the protagonist gets off the island, we see that he has developed a sort of revulsion towards other humans:

Then I look about me at my fellow-men; and I go in fear. I see faces, keen and bright; others dull or dangerous; others, unsteady, insincere, — none that have the calm authority of a reasonable soul. 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. I know this is an illusion; that these seeming men and women about me are indeed men and women, — men and women for ever, perfectly reasonable creatures, full of human desires and tender solicitude, emancipated from instinct and the slaves of no fantastic Law, — beings altogether different from the Beast Folk. Yet I shrink from them, from their curious glances, their inquiries and assistance, and long to be away from them and alone.
The Island of Doctor Moreau, chapter 22: "The Man Alone"

Is this just Prendick suffering from PTSD, or is it meant to imply something about humans in general?

1 Answer 1


The implication seems to be that humans are not as different from the grotesque Beast Folk as we would like to think.

Most good works of speculative fiction are really saying something about the real world. Whether there's a very clear real-world analogy, or something that every political party could interpret as a reference to its opponents, the most thought-provoking sci-fi and fantasy books are those with some message or moral about our own world. Usually this goes unspoken, left for the reader to pick up on by themselves, but here the author apparently wished to make it explicit and leave readers with a sense of unease just as they finish the novel.

Most of the story is about animals which have been 'made human', given the characteristics of humans. Since they revert to their bestial natures in the end, one might think that the moral of the story is something like "you can't change a creature's essential nature" - a beast will always be a beast, no matter what you do to it. Wouldn't that be cosy? As long as there aren't evil scientists doing nutty experiments, society won't regress to bestiality.

But no, Wells wants to leave you with a more disturbing possibility. Perhaps, just as the ability to become human was somewhere inside those beasts, the ability to become beasts is somewhere inside every human. Perhaps we're not as different from the beasts as we imagine, but it takes someone with experience of the Beast-Folk hybrids to really see the similarity. The implication then would be that the tale of Doctor Moreau's island is not just an aimless fantasy, but an exaggeration of something that could happen in our own society if people lost control of themselves. It brings the story "closer to home", in a way. Prendick goes to live alone because he sees the same potential for destruction in our society that he saw in the Beast Folk.

Or maybe he's just imagining it, suffering from PTSD. If that helps you sleep at night ;-)

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