Saturday, December 12, 2015

Moreau XXII: The Man Alone

As chapter XXII: "The Man Alone" opens, Prendick sets out from the island of Doctor Moreau on board a ship's boat. As he drifts along, eating and drinking sparingly from his stores, he finds that he doesn't particularly want to return to the company of his fellow humans. He remains adrift for three days before being rescued by a brig sailing from Apia to San Francisco.

In his introduction, Prendick's nephew states that his uncle was rescued on January 5, 1888. Working backwards from this, we find that Prendick first saw the boat's sail on December 31, 1887. He first boarded it, dumped its deceased occupants on the beach, and sailed off on January 1, 1888; the next day he made his last visit to the island for food and water, then set out for the open sea.

Prendick tells his story to the captain and first mate of the brig, but they refuse to believe him and decide he must have been driven mad by solitude. After that, he keeps his story to himself, feigning amnesia to avoid explaining how he spent the eleven months after the wreck of the Lady Vain.

Although he of course doesn't use the term, it is clear that Prendick is suffering from post-traumatic stress. He observes, "My memory of the Law, of the two dead sailors, of the ambuscades of the darkness, of the body in the canebrake, haunted me; and, unnatural as it seems, with my return to mankind came, instead of that confidence and sympathy I had expected, a strange enhancement of the uncertainty and dread I had experienced during my stay upon the island. No one would believe me; I was almost as queer to men as I had been to the Beast People. I may have caught something of the natural wildness of my companions. They say that terror is a disease, and anyhow I can witness that for several years now a restless fear has dwelt in my mind,—such a restless fear as a half-tamed lion cub may feel."

Prendick's PTSD results in his being unable to relax around other people. He can't rid himself of the feeling that they, too, are uplifted animals (as in a sense they are, though due to natural evolution rather than Moreau's brutal surgery), and that at any time they may start to revert to animalism as Moreau's experimental subjects did. Once back in London, Prendick tells his story one more time, to a psychiatrist who knew Moreau, and who is inclined to give Prendick the benefit of the doubt. The psychiatrist is able to help Prendick come to terms with his experience, though he is never entirely free from the terror. In the end. Prendick leaves London and takes up residence in the unpopulated countryside, where he reads and conducts chemical and astronomical research. His greatest solace is to look up into the night sky and contemplate the stars.

Prendick's nephew notes that the only island known in the region his uncle was picked up was Noble's Isle, "a small volcanic islet and uninhabited. It was visited in 1891 by H. M. S. Scorpion. A party of sailors then landed, but found nothing living thereon except certain curious white moths, some hogs and rabbits, and some rather peculiar rats." Noble's Isle is an invention of Wells; the area where he places it is an open stretch of the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles west of the Galapagos Islands.

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