My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Island of Dr. Moreau told through Memorable Quotes
They sank like stones. I remember laughing at that, and wondering why I laughed. The laugh caught me suddenly like a thing from without…
And even as I lay there I saw, with no more interest than if it had been a picture, a sail come up towards me over the sky-line. My mind must have been wandering, and yet I remember all that happened, quite distinctly. I remember how my head swayed with the seas, and the horizon with the sail about it danced up and down; but I also remember as distinctly that I had a persuasion that I was dead, and that I thought what a jest it was that they should come too late by such a little to catch me in my body (p 6-7).
I could see that Montgomery had one of those slow, pertinacious tempers that will warm day after day to a white heat, and never again cool to forgiveness; and I saw too that this quarrel had been some time growing (p 16).
The creature’s face was turned for one brief instant out of the dimness of the stern towards this illumination, and I saw that the eyes that glanced at me shone with a pale-green light. I did not know then that a reddish luminosity, at least, is not uncommon in human eyes. The thing came to me as stark inhumanity (p 22).
‘That way, Mister Blasted Shut-up, –that’s what I mean! Overboard, Mister Shut-up, –and sharp! We’re cleaning the ship out, –cleaning the whole blessed ship out; and overboard you go!’
I stared at him dumfounded [sic]. Then it occurred to me that it was exactly the thing I wanted. The lost prospect of a journey as sole passenger with this quarrelsome sot was not one to mourn over. I turned towards Montgomery.
‘Can’t have you,’ said Montgomery’s companion, concisely.
‘You can’t have me!’ said I, aghast. He had the squarest and most resolute face I ever set eyes upon (p 25).
The emotional appeal of those yells grew upon me steadily, grew at last to such an exquisite expression of suffering that I could stand it in that confined room no longer. I stepped out of the door into the slumberous heat of the late afternoon, and walking past the main entrance–locked again, I noticed–turned the corner of the wall.
The crying sounded even louder out of doors. It was as if all the pain in the world had found a voice (p 44).
Before me, squatting together upon the fungoid ruins of a huge fallen tree and still unaware of my approach, were three grotesque human figures. One was evidently a female; the other two were men. They were naked, save for swathings of scarlet cloth about the middle; and their skins were of a dull punkish-drab colour, such as I had seen in no savages before. They had fat, heavy, chinless faces, retreating foreheads, and a scant bristly hair upon their heads. I never saw such bestial-looking creatures (p 48).
Suddenly, as I watched their grotesque and unaccountable gestures, I perceived clearly for the first time what it was that had offended me, what had given me the two inconsistent and conflicting impressions of utter strangeness and yet of the strangest familiarity. The three creatures engaged in this mysterious rite were human in shape, and yet human beings with the strangest air about them of some familiar animal. Each of these creatures, despite its human form, its rag of clothing, and the rough humanity of its bodily form, had woven into it–into its movements, into the expression of its countenance, into its whole presence–some now irresistible suggestion of a hog, a swinish taint, the unmistakable mark of the beast (p 49).
A startled deerhound yelped and snarled. There was blood, I saw, in the sink,–brown, and some scarlet–and I smelt the peculiar smell of carbolic acid. Then through an open doorway beyond, in the dim light of the shadow, I saw something bound painfully upon a framework, scarred, red, and bandaged; and then blotting this out appeared the face of old Moreau, white and terrible. In a moment he had gripped me by the should with a hand that smeared red, had twisted me off my feet, and flung me headlong back into my own room (p 60).
Then something cold touched my hand. I started violently, and saw close to me a dim pinkish thing, looking more like a flayed child than anything else in the world. The creature had exactly the mild but repulsive features of a sloth, the same low forehead and slow gestures (p 69).
That dark hut, these grotesque dim figures, just flecked here and there by a glimmer of light, and all of them swaying in unison and chanting,
‘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?’
We ran through a long list of prohibitions, and then the chant swung round to a new formula.
‘His is the House of Pain.
‘His is the Hand that makes.’
‘His is the Hand that wounds.
‘His is the Hand that heals.’
A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau, after animalising these men, had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself (p 71-72).
‘I am the Sayer of the Law,’ said the grey figure. ‘Here come all that be new to learn the Law. I sit in the darkness and say the Law’…
‘For every one that want that is bad,’ said the Sayer of the Law. ‘What you will want we do not know; we shall know. Some want to follow things that move, to watch and slink and wait and spring; to kill and bite, bite deep and rich, sucking the blood. It is bad. ‘Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not men? Not to eat Flesh or Fish; that is the Law. Are we not men?’ (p 74)
He coughed, thought, then shouted: ‘Latin, Prendick! Bad Latin, schoolboy Latin; but try and understand. Hi non sunt homines; sunt animalia qui nos habemus–vivisected. A humanising process. I will explain. Come ashore’ (p 83).
Translation: ”These aren’t men that have us, they are animals.”
And I tell you, pleasure and pain have nothing to do with heaven or hell. Pleasure and pain–bah! What is your theologian’s ecstasy but Mahomet’s houri in the dark? This store which men and women set on pleasure and pain, Prendick, is the mark of the beast upon the them, –the mark of the beast from wich they came! (p 92)
‘Then I took the gorilla I had, and upon that, working with infinite care and mastering difficulty after difficulty, I made my first man. All the week, night and day, I moulded him. With him it was chiefly the brain that needed moulding; much had to be added, much changed (p 94).
‘I rested from work some days after this, and was in a mind to write an account of the whole affair to wake up English physiology (p 95).
‘There’s something they call the Law. Sing hymns about ‘all thine.’ They build themselves their dens, gather fruit, and pull herbs–marry even. But I can see through it all, see into their very souls, and see there nothing bu the souls of beast, beasts that perish, anger and the lusts to live and gratify themselves.–Yet they’re odd; complex, like everything else alive’…
I looked at him, and saw but a white-faced, white-haired man, with calm eyes. Save for his serenity, the touch almost of beauty that resulted from his set tranquility and his magnificent build, he might have passed muster among a hundred other comfortable gentlemen (p 98).
I would see one of the clumsy bovine-creatures who worked the launch treading heavily through the undergrowth, and find myself asking, trying hard to recall, how he differed from some really human yokel trudging home from his mechanical labours; or I would meet the Fox-bear woman’s vulpine, shifty face, strangely human in its speculative cunning, and even imagine I had met it before in some city byway (p 106).
I must confess that I lost faith in the sanity of the world when I saw it suffering the painful disorder of the island. A blind Fate, a vast pitiless Mechanism, seemed to cut and shape the fabric of existence and I, Moreau (by his passion for research), Montgomery (by his passion for drink), the Beast People with their instincts and mental restrictions, were torn and crushed, ruthlessly, inevitably, amid the infinite complexity of its incessant wheels (p 122).
He seemed suddenly heavier. My heart went cold. I bent down to his face, put my hand through the rent in his blouse. He was dead; and even as he died a line of white heart, the limb of the sun, rose eastward beyond the projection of the bay, splashing its radiance across the sky and turning the dark sea into a weltering tumult of dazzling light. It fell like a glory upon his death-shrunken face (p 142).
An animal may be ferocious and cunning enough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie (p 154).
Some of them–the pioneers in this, I noticed with some surprise, were all females–began to disregard the injunction of decency, deliberately for the most part. Others even attempted public outrages upon the institution of monogamy. The tradition of the Law was clearly lowing its force. I cannot pursue this disagreeable subject (p 158).
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 (p 168).
I have withdrawn myself from the confusion of cities and multitudes, and spend my days surrounded by wise books,–bright windows in this life of ours, lit by the shining souls of men…There is–though I do not know how there is or why there is–a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope. I hope, or I could not live.
And so, in hope and solitude, my story ends (p 169).
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 350,000+ followers