Animal or Human in The Island of Dr. Moreau

“Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence began in agony, was one long internal struggle, one long dread of Moreau-and for what?” (74).

In this quote, Edward Prendick is reflecting on the life of the Beast People that Moreau has created and then abandoned, left to survive on their own. Prendick realizes that the Beast People are caught between two worlds, the animal and the human. Wells demonstrates this struggle of the Beast People through his word choice, which reflects the lack of power the Beast People have over their lives. This ultimately reveals that the Beast People are at the mercy of their creator, Moreau, and that they will forever exist in a realm of otherness as a result of Moreau’s experiments.

Wells uses words that demonstrate the Beast People’s lack of power in all aspects of their life. The Beast People are caught in the “shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand” (74). The word “shackles” stands out immediately because it provides an image of the Beast People being enslaved or bound within humanity. This helps illustrate that the Beast People are trapped in the human world physically due to their altered forms. The Beast People are also trapped in the human world emotionally, which is revealed through the feeling of “fear that never [dies]”. The word “fear” suggests that the Beast People are afraid of something, in this case Moreau and being brought back to his laboratory. The Beast People constantly carry around this feeling, which shows the emotional weight of being caught between two worlds. The Beast People are trapped between the animal and the human world in every potential way. Moreau has affected their physical and emotional state and has also managed to gain control over their mental state. This is seen through the Beast People’s inability to understand the laws that govern their community. The use of the word “fretted” shows the worry the Beast People deal with because they are expected to abide by these laws that they unfortunately cannot understand. The reason they cannot understand them is because they are not fully human, much to Moreau’s chagrin. This quote reveals that the Beast People have no control over their lives; Moreau has affected them physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Through this quote it is also revealed that time is an important factor in the lives of the Beast People. The importance of time is also reflected in the Longman Anthology, which discusses how “the Victorians were troubled by Time” (1055). While the Victorians struggled with Time in regards to the Industrial Revolution, the Beast People grapple with Time in terms of their existence. However, the Beast People’s existence is a result of Moreau’s attempts to accomplish a new technology, which was a factor in the Industrial Revolution. The word “long” appears in this quote twice, which shows the reader the existence of time within the novel. The use of the word “long” reflects an extended period of time in which the Beast People suffer. The phrase “never died”, which refers to the fear the Beast People feel, also showcases time; there is no end in sight for the Beast People’s agony.

Moreau has trapped these Beast People between two worlds, the animal and the human. They exist in a space of otherness, not quite animal and not quite human. This is reflected in their “mock-human existence”. They are imitating being human, but cannot fully achieve humanity because of their animal instincts and form. As a result of living in between these two spaces, the Beast People do not have power over their lives because they don’t know which realm they should occupy. Moreau tells them they should be human, but their bodies and natural instincts tell them they are animal. This constant battle is just another way the Beast People are caught in an eternal struggle. If one does not even know what to call themself, how can they live in peace?