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Literature: Shakespeare

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Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, a suburb of London, to a
lower-middle-class family. He attended London University and the Royal College
of Science where he studied zoology. One of his professors instilled in him a
belief in social as well as biological evolution which Wells later cited as the
important and influential aspect of his education. This is how it all began.
Maybe without this professor Wells wouldn’t be the famous author he is today.
Most of Wells novels are science fiction and have a great deal of some kind of
human society theme, or Darwinism in mind. It is a theme that is seen in his
most famous science fiction writings. H.G. Wells seems to convey a sense of
Darwinism and change in the future of society in his major works. Wells has been
called the father and Shakespeare of science fiction. He is best known today for
his great work in science fiction novels and short stories. He depicted stories
of chemical warfare, world wars, alien visitors and even atomic weapons in a
time that most authors, or even people for that matter, were not thinking of the
like. His stories opened a door for future science fiction writers who followed
the trend that Wells wrote about. His most popular science fiction works include
The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of
Doctor Moreau. His first novel, The Time Machine, was an immediate success. By
the time the First World War had begun his style of writing and novels had made
him one of the most controversial and best-selling authors in his time. In the
story The Time Machine, Wells expresses his creativity with images of beauty,
ugliness and great details. In this novel Wells explores what it would be like
to travel in this magnificent and beautiful machine. “The criterion of the
prophecy in this case is influenced by the theory of “natural selection.”
(Beresford, 424) He uses Darwin’s theory in the novel and relates it to the
men living in the novel. The men are no longer struggling to survive, they have
all adapted and there is no termination of the weak. It had practically ceased.
His fascination with society in biological terms is also mentioned, “Shows
Wells horizon of sociobiological regression leading to cosmic extinction,
simplified from Darwinism.” (Beresford, 424) He took the idea from Darwin but
instead of making it “survival of the fittest”, the weak have already died
off and only the fittest are left, which leads to the extinction. His
fascination with Darwinism was one that had not been thought by many in that
time, because there were questions of ethics and religion. “From The Time
Machine on, it was generally recognized that no writer had so completely or so
perceptively taken Darwin to heart.” (McConnell, 442) He wasn’t the first
man to realize and acknowledge the importance of Darwin’s theory for the
future of civilization, but he is said to be the first to assimilate that theory
into his stories. Concerning society with the future, The Time Machine is said
to be seen as “a prophecy of the effects of rampant industrialization on that
class conflict that was already, in the nineteenth, century a social powder
keg.” (McConnell, 438) Wells always touched upon the subject of society, the
destruction of it, and how it would become in the future due to this destruction
and chaos. His view on society was that the classes would clash and ultimately
“they might become two races, mutually uncomprehending and murderously
divided,” (Suvin, 435) His predictions of future societies were all much
alike, war-torn class problems, much like what is seen now a days. The narrator
of The Time Machine says of the Time Traveler that he “saw in the growing pile
of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and
destroy its makers in the end.” (McConnell, 439) This is another reference to
society’s survival of the fittest, as he depicts civilization tearing at each
other, and in the end, doing away with their creator. Not all of his predictions
and social clashes were horrid and horrendous with violence. In some of his
foretelling of what society would do, he recommended things that could be done
to avoid such things and maybe in the end reach some kind of peace or
togetherness. “That the human race, thanks to its inherited prejudices and
superstitions and its innate pigheadedness, is an endangered species; and that
mankind must learn-soon-to establish a state of worldwide cooperation by burying
its old hatreds and its ancient selfishness, or face extinction.” (McConnell,
439) I’m not saying Wells was some kind of great prophet or a Nostradamus of
his time, but it is something that sounds like a prediction for what is to come
and what must be done to avoid and/or overcome the differences. Wells
predictions were not only for the social classes, but also in the field of
warfare weaponry and new innovations not yet seen or heard of in his time. He
went as far as to describe the weapons used, and the inventions never imagined
by man. Among his predictions were the use of armored tanks in war. He even used
the phrase “atomic bomb” before anyone was using it, and described in close
detail the power of the chain reaction explosions. The Island of Doctor Moreau
may well be the most famous novel written by H.G. Wells. It is also said to be
his most “systematic study of the evolutionary dilemma,” (Bergonzi, 543 ) as
he complicates, once again, the evolutionary system. Most of the critics said
the same thing about the novel, if not similarities. “The meaning of the novel
is found in Darwinism” (Bergonzi, p.543) The island has a scientist by the
name of Doctor Moreau and he changes the animals into new and almost human like
forms. It is like playing with nature and evolving a whole new species out of
what is already there on the island. Just like Charles Darwin came up with his
theory of the unchanged and evolved animals on the Galapagos, H.G. Wells came up
with this island and the scientist there is evolving them on his own. It is also
said that the “version of the island myth conveys a powerful and imaginative
response to the implications of Evolution.” (Huntington, 445) which sounds
like what I explained, that this is Wells way of interpreting his own evolution
in his science fiction world. He causes a sort of imbalance among the humans and
semi-humans his mad doctor has created on his island. The imbalance causes a
sense of threat of one of the specie’s domination in the story, and causes a
puzzling thought of evolution and ethics for the readers. “Moreau’s genius
is thwarted by society and so he preys on society,” (Huntington, 446) The mad
Doctor Moreau is opposed and against the society that has evolved around him and
that he has been exposed to, so he seeks out to destroy it, by creating his own
evolved species. Doctor Moreau wants to play the creator and eliminator, and
bring it together in his own survival of the fittest game. It reminds me of a
story I read my freshman year in high school, about a man who lives on a
deserted island, and the people who are stranded there, he hunts them for fun.
The common factor is they’re both trying to make their own little world with
different classes of species. Called one of “Well’s finest piece of
sustained imaginative writing” (Beresford, 425 ), The War of the Worlds, is
often considered to be the story that most science fiction authors that came
after Wells follow, or get their ideas from. Wells presents to us an image of
human society as the victim to aliens that are encountered by humans. The theme
of the story has been said to be “Physical destruction of society or
dissolution of the social order.” (Bergonzi, p.544) Wells continues on with
his Darwinian approach in this story, as it did with The Island of Doctor
Moreau, with it’s details of violence and mutilation, as if society is
evolving into some kind of violent species out to destroy itself. With this
destruction of society leads the loss of order in all parts, especially social
disorder and chaos. In the story The War of the Worlds, Wells describes in
details how a Martian will eat up a human being, and we read on in disgust. He
then later cautions, “I think that we should remember how repulsive our
carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.” (Huntington, 443)
He’s telling us to think about ethically the meaning to even the most simplest
evolutionary situation. He toys with how evolution has made humans the cream of
the crop, and the top of the food chain. On the other hand, The War of the
Worlds places humans in the middle position, not a at the top. He makes the
humans the predators of the lower forms, and the superior Martians are made out
to be at the top in Wells’ evolutionary plans of his story. It is the scary
sense that is there to make us think about and wonder what it would be like to
be dominated by another species, the way we dominate others. Wells seems to like
to tickle the mind with ethics. Even though I have not read a book by H.G.
Wells, from what I have read from the critics, I have come to the conclusion
that Wells seems to keep a central theme of Darwinism, and societies future. The
little excerpts I have been given to read, and the critics choice parts of his
stories give the examples of this theme. Wells lived in a time when most of
those things were unimaginable, for no one had heard of most of the things he
described, let alone talked about such things, at least not to the public. It
was a manner of writing which was not seen in his time, and raised questions of
ethics and caused Wells to be a controversial author. His style lead the way for
what is science fiction today.
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