While reading H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, I was focused on the recurring theme within the text of the transition and fluidness between human and non-human characteristics. This is specifically seen towards the end of the novel, as Prendick is left alone on the island with Moreau’s experiments – all of which gradually revert to a more wild version of themselves. The influence of the creatures on Prendick is exemplified in his acknowledged friendships between some of the creatures, as some of them he has a “friendly tolerance” (96) towards and his outright kinship with the Dog-Man “After the death of this poor dog of mine, my last friend, I too adopted to some extent the practice of slumbering in the daytime, in order to be on my guard at night” (100). This quote also shows his transition to a more nocturnal lifestyle due to the totally immersive state of being surrounded by half-animals.
Additionally, the significance of Prendick’s closet companion on the island having been derived from a dog suggests that only the most docile and domesticated animals are trustworthy and worthy of being by the side of humans: “I scarcely noticed the transition from the companion on my right hand to the lurching dog at my side” (97). Dog Man is the only creature on the island that Prendick willingly allows to touch his hand, but only after Dog Man calls him ‘Master’ and pledges servitude to him: “The thing was evidently faithful enough, for it might have fallen upon me as I slept….extending my hand for another licking kiss” (93). Part of this honored position, however, can be traced directly to the creature’s willingness to serve humans “The Dog Man scarcely dared to leave my side“ (95) and in this way it can be argued that Prendick retains the human ability to domesticate creatures and does not completely devolve into just another animal on the island.
However, Wells also parallels Prendick’s degeneration to a more animalistic version of himself alongside the reversion of the creatures on the island to a more wild and truer form of themselves – “I, too, must have undergone strange changes…. I am told that even now my eyes have a strange brightness, a swift alertness of movement.” (98). Prendick defines the shift in his nature as a result of having “caught something of the natural wildness of my companions” (102). This shift appears to be both permanent and irreversible both in the case of Prendick and the creatures. On a grander level, this fear of “catching” less-than desirable characteristics can be connected to the Victorian fear of being conquered and overrun by the societies that they had previously taken control over. It contributes to the general fear of outsiders/aliens – anything that is different has the potential to upset the foundation of Victorian society and way of life. These moments in the text can also be read as a question of what separates humans, and in the case of this class and novel, specifically Victorians, from other animals and other cultures. The fear that Victorians might resemble other races too closely to be comfortable also shines through as a large part of what I believe Wells was exploring in writing this novel was how easy is it for another race to become passably colonized or “domesticated”.