This new study offers a general reassessment of H. G. Wells as a writer and thinker. It concentrates upon the close relationship between Wells’ developing philosophy and his literary techniques. The early chapters examine Wells’ treatment of such subjects as confinement and escape, sex, the nature of human identity, the relationship of individual to race, human progress, and the importance of education. At the same time, the describe the emotional topography that Wells created as a mean of vivifying his ideas, a topography constructed from image complexes largely based upon the analogy between individual and racial evolution.
The major contribution of the book comes in its later chapters, which deal with Wells’ metaphysical assumptions and his approach to his craft. His views on free will and strength of will were intimately related to his methods of literary composition. The important later chapters detail this relationship, while describing some of Wells’ characteristic literary devices, such as the intentional violations of certain novelistic conventions or the sly borrowing from and alluding to contemporary works of literature in what amounted to a covert polemic.
On the whole, this study argues for a coherent and consistent, though developing, philosophy operating throughout Wells’ career and manifested in experimental literary works which, while not always successful, were consistently inventive and intelligently crafted in the service of Wells’ principle aim, the education of the human species to a command of its own destiny.
John Reed is professor of English at Wayne State University. His most recent books include Victorian Conventions (1975) and The Natural History of H.G. Wells (1982), both published by Ohio University Press.
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