The Similarities And Differences Of Protagonists In H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau And Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

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“To the place where my heart takes me, I start my journey that way. I look for my next destination. A delightful excitement” (FTISLAND). These lyrics express the writer’s willingness to go wherever he considers suitable at any given moment. To the writer, an adventure to an unknown place is a fun experience which burdens him not. In contrast to this notion, some classic literary characters experience life-changing events on such trips. Specifically, the protagonists of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe decide to leave their societies in search of adventure, but instead encounter dangerous situations. Prendick’s condition on the island is initially much better than Crusoe’s, however, Prendick has an overall negative experience while Crusoe has a positive one. This is as a result of their differences in ability to persevere and take advantage of opportunities. This is evident through consideration of settings used to represent comfort, isolation and diligence. Also, it is discernible after an examination of the conflicts experienced in their physical environments, their minds and the people of society. Finally, it is understood after an analysis of the imagery used to represent fear, hope, and power in both works.

To begin, in H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, it is evident through an examination of the settings representing isolation, comfort, and diligence that though Edward Prendick’s initial living conditions on the island are better than Robinson Crusoe’s, Crusoe has a more positive experience as a result of his perseverance and resourcefulness. In comparison to Crusoe, Prendick’s isolation on his island is not extremely serious. When the Captain of the Ipecacuanha tells Prendick to disembark, he stays on an island with the Beast Folk, Montgomery, and Moreau (Wells 39). Also, when Crusoe arrives on the island, he says, “All the remedy that offered to my thoughts at that time was to get up into a thick bushy tree like a fir, but thorny, which grew near me… .” (Defoe 38-39). Prendick considers himself left for dead on an island, but he is actually accepted into a society. Unfortunately, Crusoe alone makes it onto the island, and his only thoughts are of how to live with the few resources on the island. Throughout the stories, both characters experience contrasting levels of comfort though they both have similarly sufficient resources by the end. When Prendick arrives on the island, he is given a room he describes as, “a small apartment, plainly but not uncomfortably furnished and with its inner door, which was slightly ajar, opening into a paved courtyard” (49). However, Everett Zimmerman says Crusoe not only dislikes comfort being handed to him but also rejects it by saying,“His predilection for the sea represents his fascination with a liminal state in which the seemingly rigorous shipboard order required for safety and successful commerce is persistently threatened by nature, by the fragility of social bonds far from home, and by an ambiguous political order” (506). Since Prendick’s arrival on the island, he is treated well for someone who is uninvited, but he still describes his experience negatively. While Prendick seeks comfort, Crusoe does not like the idea of someone bestowing comfort on him. Which is why instead of staying at home, he leaves to live a more interesting life. While Prendick becomes disturbed after being on his island for less than a year, most of which he lives comfortably, it is because Crusoe does not prioritize comfort, that he is able to have good memories after being stranded for twenty-eight years. Finally, while Prendick lacks perseverance and diligence, Crusoe accepts change and works to make his island inhabitable. Sherryl Vint believes that one difference between Prendick and Moreau is that Prendick empathizes with the animals’ pain during vivisection, and leaves to not hear their screams (90). Unlike him, when Crusoe first tries to sow grains, and none grow, instead of resigning, he tries again in another location and season (88). Though it is evident that Prendick is uncomfortable with the animals’ screams, he tries not to hear instead of helping the animals or identifying the reason for their evident pain. This is unlike Crusoe who sets out to make his surroundings suitable to him. If Prendick makes more effort, he could have an amazing experience on his island as Crusoe does. Not only do different settings in the novels reveal the characters’ tendencies, but also their conflicts show that their conditions do not only influence the experience they have but also their dedications and abilities take advantage of given opportunities.

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In addition, the difference in the ultimate outcomes of the protagonists of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as a result of their diligence and perseverance is shown through their different conflicts with citizens, their physical surroundings and themselves. The conflicts between Prendick, Crusoe, and people on their respective islands are directly related to whether or not they have a good experience. In their final conflict, Montgomery says to Prendick, “You're a solemn prig, Prendick, a silly ass! You're always fearing and fancying. We're on the edge of things” (169). Defoe and Caldwell say that as Crusoe gains a companion and confidence, he initiates an attack on some cannibals instead of hiding like he usually would (228). When Montgomery leaves after the argument with Prendick, he gives alcohol to the Beast Folk who later kill him and leave Prendick as the only human alive on the island. This increases Prendick’s negative feeling about the island. However, Crusoe’s conflict is only asserting his new power of not being alone, and to gain humans with whom to interact. Prendick, unlike Crusoe, often lose his opportunities in the midst of conflicts with nature. Prendick has a pivotal conflict with a Beast Folk and says, “[I] knew I had missed, and clicked back the cock with my thumb for the next shot. But he was already running headlong, jumping from side to side, and I dared not risk another miss” (180). When the storm washes Crusoe’s ship ashore the deserted island, Crusoe wastes no time resenting but instead resolves to search the ship for useful goods which later aid him to survive and live comfortably on the island (39-40). Of all the Beast Folk, Prendick is aware that the Hyena-Swine is the greatest risk to his life but instead of striving to kill it, he loses his opportunity and lives in fear until he leaves the island. However, conflicts with nature only slightly defer Crusoe and he soon makes things better for himself. The protagonists’ abilities to stay true to their beliefs can be evaluated through their internal conflicts. Rose describe the first instance of Prendick being conflicted with himself as she says, “The men draw lots and resort to cannibalism to survive. Although Prendick initially resists, believing that it would be better to die together than sacrifice one of their number to such a gruesome fate, on the seventh day, he agrees” (1). Crusoe speaks of when he is tempted to return home and says, “I had several times loud calls from my reason and my more composed judgment to go home, yet I had no power to do it” (10). Rose highlights the first instance of Prendick conflicting himself. Cannibalism is against his belief but later agrees out of desperation though the idea is still unsettling. He does not affirm to his beliefs for long, unlike Crusoe who determinedly leaves his father’s house and does not return despite temptations to do so during adversities, following his original plan. In addition to through their conflicts with their environments, themselves and civilians of their societies, Prendick and Crusoe’s differences regarding their abilities to endure and work diligently are evident after an examination of the novels’ imageries representing hope, pain and power.

Finally, the imageries representing hope, pain and power in H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe provide insight as to why Crusoe has a more positive experience on his island when compared to Prendick, due to their differences in perseverance and willingness to take advantage of opportunities. Though imageries of pain in both works are evident, the protagonists react differently. Vint emphasizes the type of cruelty Prendick witnesses on the island because of Moreau by saying, “He does not hear the cries of animals, he does not see their flowing blood, he sees nothing but his idea, and is aware of nothing but an organism that conceals from him the problem he is seeking to resolve” (88). Crusoe describes the remains of a cannibalistic feast and says, “The place was covered with human bones, the ground dyed with their blood, and great pieces of flesh left here and there, half-eaten, mangled, and scorched” (174). Vint argues that during his time on the island, Prendick witnesses a lot of animal cruelty, which causes Prendick to associate the island with this bad memory. However, though Crusoe is a possible target for cannibals and could die a painful death, he does not accept this but instead creates defences to protect himself which allows him to more relaxed on his island. Also, the imageries of power protagonists’ reactions to them reveal a lot about their personalities. Anita R. Rose believes both the captain of the Ipecacuanha and Moreau demonstrate barbarity. She says that while the captain is obviously brutish, Moreau appears thoughtful and well educated but has complete control over the Beast People (5). Crusoe is also powerful when he rescues a man from cannibals and takes control of his life by teaching him English, changing his diet, and religion. Defoe and Caldwell say this display of power over a cannibal excite the people of their time as many fear cannibals(228). Both works are reflective of the idea of colonialism in their time. Prendick has no intention to engage in this which explains why he does not take control of the Beast Folk after their masters’ deaths. Crusoe, however, spares no time taking control of the cannibal and quickly makes him into what Crusoe considers civilized. Lastly, the imageries of hope help to explain the protagonists’ perseverance. While Prendick is escaping the island, he is happy but also does not want to see civilization again. He loses all hope in humanity (202-203). Defoe and Caldwell say that Crusoe gets a lot of hope from his religion, but only indulges in it when he is in mortal danger. He believes that if he prays and repents, God will save him (230). During what should be Prendick’s happiest moment, he is daunted by the thought of going back to civilization. He has no desire to be with other humans as he believes they are as illogical as Moreau or will revert to beasts as the Beast Folks. In contrast, Crusoe is full of hope even at dangerous times. His belief in religion allows him to think positively and regain hope, though when he is content again he typically disregards religion.

To summarize, analyses of the settings representing comfort, isolation and diligence, their conflicts with nature, themselves and others, as well as the imageries of hope, pain and power in both works supports the thesis. That is, while Prendick from H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau is more advantageous, he has a negative experience on his island unlike Crusoe from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as a result of their differing perseverance and opportunity taking abilities. Which is why though Prendick and Crusoe do not have delightful excitements on their ways to their respective islands, they both have memorable experiences, for good or for bad.

Works Cited

  1. Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Knopf, 1992.
  2. Defoe, Daniel, and Tracy M. Caldwell. “Robinson Crusoe.” Introduction to Literary Context: World Literature, Nov. 2014, p. 227–230. EBSCOhost,
  3. Rose, Anita R. “Literary Contexts in Novels: H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau.” Literary Contexts in Novels: H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, Sept. 2006, p. 1-5.
  4. EBSCOhost,
  5. Vint, Sherryl. 'Animals And Animality From The Island of Moreau to The Uplift Universe.'
  6. Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 2007, p. 88-90. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  7. Wells, H. G. The Island of Dr. Moreau. Signet Classics, 2014.
  8. Zimmerman, Everett. 'Robinson Crusoe and no Man's Land.' The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 102, no. 4, 2003, p. 506. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.
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