Literature / The Island of Doctor Moreau

"Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
"Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?"
The Law

The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 novel by H. G. Wells. Its story centers on Edward Prendick, the narrator, who is shipwrecked at sea and rescued by Dr. Montgomery. The good doctor takes Edward to the island where he works, a land so ominous that they quickly abandon him. Edward is soon introduced to the island's ruler, the Mad Doctor Moreau, and discovers Moreau's horrifying society of surgically-altered beasts that walk, speak, and struggle to live like men. The more he's around these beast-men, the more uncomfortable he becomes in his own society.

It was adapted several times for the screen; the earliest was in 1932 as Island of Lost Souls, starring Charles Laughton as the eponymous doctor. The most recent was released in 1996 (a full century after the book), with Marlon Brando as Moreau.

This work features examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Montgomery.
  • Animorphism: Although the beast people are transformed into anthropomorphic forms, they gradually regress back into animalistic forms, despite Moreau's best efforts.
  • Asshole Victim: Captain Davis who apparently died a slow death in a lifeboat. Considering that he abandoned Prendick to a similar fate, it's hard to feel sorry for him.
  • Ax-Crazy: Hyena-Swine.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted. The bear man is one of the kindest and more helpful creatures on the island.
  • Beast Man: One of the earliest examples, and a lampshade hanging on how horrifying this trope would actually be, as the sheer Uncanny Valley of Moreau's creations constantly disturbs the main character.
  • Bio Punk: A prototype of the genre, even though it pre-dated the discovery of DNA by 60 years and the idea of genetic engineering by about thirty.
  • Body Horror: In the original book, the creatures aren't mutated, simply mutilated and operated on; anesthetic-free surgery has forced and moulded them into humanoid forms.
  • Cats Are Mean: Moreau's final experiment, a puma woman, ends up killing him. The other beasts based on big cats tend to be the more savage ones, even compared to the wolf people. The biggest threat comes from a cross between a hyena and pig. This makes the three most threatening beast people all cats or cat relation note .
  • Cute Mute: The sloth creature.
  • The Commandments: The Law.
  • Deserted Island: The eponymous Island.
  • Evil Redhead: Wells repeatedly mentions the fact that Captain Davis, the drunken, abusive schooner captain, has red hair. Admittedly he is a bully.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Moreau first experimented on a gorilla to produce his first Beast Man. Later on, Prendick meets an Ape Man.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Averted; Moreau is more concerned with perfecting his surgical techniques than their products. He even remarks that he could just as well have turned sheep into llamas as animals into humans; the latter was simply more artistically-satisfying to him.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Prendick narrates the story.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The ape-man is exceedingly proud that he averts this trope, unlike most of the other beastfolk.
  • A God Am I: Moreau never outright says it, but the Beastmen certainly view him this way.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    "My one idea was to get away from these horrible caricatures of my Maker's image, back to the sweet and wholesome intercourse of men."
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Moreau mentions that the monsters he create can mate and bear young, but the parents usually immediately eat their young after birth.
  • Island of Mystery: The eponymous Island, indeed.
  • Killed Offscreen: It is heavily implied the corpses in the life boat at the end of the book was Captain Davis and one of his crewmen.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Sometime after abandoning Prendick in a life boat near Moreau's island, Captain Davis' corpse is found in a lifeboat that washed up on the very island he wanted to get away from. His corpse is then eaten by the beast men, one of whom he aloud his men to abuse.
  • Lost at Sea
  • Mad Scientist: Moreau.
    • Mad Doctor: He's doing all this as a way of practising surgical techniques, or so he claims. These techniques consist of vivisection. Without aenesthetics. It is hardly a wonder Moreau's house is called the House of Pain.
  • Meaningful Name: The beast men call Moreau's house the House of Pain, and with good reason.
  • Mercy Kill: Prendick shoots the Leopard-Man to save him from further operation.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Of course, both Moreau and Montgomery have actual PhDs.
  • Motor Mouth: The Ape Man.
  • Mutual Kill: Between Moreau and the puma.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The House of Pain, Dr Moreau's dwelling where he surgically alters animals into men, by vivisection, without aenesthetics.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever Montgomery did a decade ago that forced him to leave London. The most description we get is "I lost my head, and...."
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Subverted in the opening chapter, when Prendick's fellow castaways fight over who's to be eaten and they both fall out of the lifeboat to drown.
  • Ocean Madness: Prendick suffers from this early on, or at least he thinks he does.
  • Pig Man: Several of the beast men were made out of pigs or related animals.
  • The Place: The titular island.
  • Rich Boredom: Prendick's backstory.
  • Robinsonade
  • Savage Wolves: There are several wolf people, but they do not seem to be as violent as the feline beasts.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: The nastiest of the Beast Folk was created from a hyena and a pig, both animals that will scavenge.
  • Shout-Out: Montgomery studied on Gower Street in London, which is the street that Darwin lived on.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The novel has a pretty pessimistic view of how uplifting animals would turn out despite being the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier.
  • Undying Loyalty: The dog man remains man's best friend to the end.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Prendick.
  • Uplifted Animal: One of the earliest uses, in the most horrible way possible.
  • Veganopia: Forbidding the consumption of meat is one of the ways Moreau keeps his creations' more predatory instincts suppressed. It doesn't work.
  • Was Once a Man: The main character thinks this is what's going on, but finds out its actually the other way around, the creatures on the island were once animals, turned into men. Or something like it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Moreau has hints of this.
  • The X of Y