But They Talk: Historical and Modern Mechanisms Behind the Beast Folk’s Language in The Island of Dr. Moreau

Mise en Abyme. International Journal of Comparative Literature an Arts. 2014;I(2):36-58


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Journal Title: Mise en Abyme. International Journal of Comparative Literature an Arts

ISSN: 2284-3310 (Online)

Publisher: Bel-Ami Edizioni

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts: Arts in general | Language and Literature: Philology. Linguistics: Communication. Mass media | Language and Literature: Literature (General) | Language and Literature: French literature - Italian literature - Spanish literature - Portuguese literature

Country of publisher: Italy

Language of fulltext: Spanish; Castilian, Italian, English

Full-text formats available: PDF



Bonnie Cross (Community College of Allegheny County, PA)


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Time From Submission to Publication: 12 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

The Beast Folk in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) use language to raise the fear of human degeneration by revealing the inner animal within humanity. Moreau re-creates the physical mechanisms for speech such as the larynx, but is also able to manipulate the brain to create the necessary structures for speech, previously unique to the human brain, into nonhumans. Applying Darwin’s theory that the continued use of speech led to the physical and mental changes of humans, the argument can be made that ceasing to use speech would weaken these structures of speech. After Moreau’s death, the Beast Folk no longer heed the Law and stop speaking, becoming more animalistic through their silence. Prendick also loses his language after the death of Moreau and Montgomery and begins to struggle differentiating the Beast Folk from humans. The Island of Dr. Moreau addresses the Victorian anxiety regarding the use of language as a definite boundary between humans and animals by suggesting that language fails to keep the inner animal of humanity at bay. Neuroscience has linked animal and human sounds revealing the mechanisms responsible for the production and understanding of language creating a new paradigm to explore.