H.G. Wells & The Shape Of Things To Come Essay, Research Paper
H.G. Wells and the Shape of Things to Come
Heat rays destroying London, time machines sending people far ahead into the future, and men who can’t even be seen: these are all things that H.G. Wells uses in his science-fiction novels. His imagination allows the reader to immerse themselves in the book and do, in their mind, what the characters are doing. Wells’ books were, in part, based on real-life happenings. War of the Worlds was conjured up in his mind because of the close position of Mars to Earth in 1894. Life on Mars was suspected and he played up to that curiosity of the people. His views of the future were outrageous and original. The people loved this, which is why he was so popular. John Middleton Murray has described Wells as “the last prophet of bourgeois Europe.” He was also Europe’s first futurologist. His writing style has been compared with a combination of Charles Darwin and Mary Shelly. Wells coined the phrase “the shape of things to come” and warned people of the dangers of the future in the literature that he wrote.
Wells’ prophecy of “the shape of things to come” is accomplished in The Time Machine. His ideas about the future are surely detrimental. As the Time Traveler is standing on the shore of a dead sea, he thinks to himself,
I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung over the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of the lichenous plants, the thin air that hurt one’s lungs; all contributed to an appalling effect (69).
This scene is one of complete desolation and despair. He had spent all his time making the time machine to see the wonderful advances in technology, knowledge, and intellect. Instead he finds only decay and degeneration. Wells also had ideas of the people of the future. The creatures he describes were “. . . a fragile thing out of futurity. Exquisite creatures with a graceful gentleness, a certain childlike ease” (20). He suggests the deterioration of the human race in this passage. Is this the future of the human race? Diminishing stature of people, followed by extinction, on a dying planet. Wells’ main purpose in writing The Time Machine was to give a grim indication that without major social reform, the future for humanity will not be too bright. He thought what we do now is the most important thing to the future of our world. I his eyes, there will be no second chances to correct what goes on now.
Wells’ prophecy of the future continues in his novel, The War of the Worlds. It was written in response to several historical events about future events. One of the major events was the unification of Germany. It led to many books about war in Europe. Another factor in the production of this novel was the closeness of Mars to Earth in 1894. It led to much discussion about life on the foreign planet. Wells, the “future prophet,” predicted such things as tanks, aerial bombing, nuclear was, and–in The War of the Worlds–gas warfare, laser-like weapons, and industrial robots. Speaking of the heat ray in chapter six, Wells says, “In the sudden thud, hiss, and glare of the igniting trees, the panic-stricken crowd seems to have swayed hesitatingly for some moments, like puffs of flame”(War ). Wells suggests the intense technology advancements of the Martians in this quotation. He tells about the heat ray that turns anything in its path to cinders and ashes. This idea, though, is contrary to that of the one in The Time Machine. In that novel, the technology had deteriorated to nothing.
Wells establishes his views of life on the moon in The First Men in the Moon. The Selenities, inhabitants of the inner part of the moon, are described as roughly humanoid and insect-like in form, and their utopian-style society is loosely based upon an ant or bee hierarchy with hundreds of highly specialized variants. They are divided into two main classes of arranged beings. They are the workers and the intellectuals. Speaking of the Selenities, Wells says,
In the moon . . . every citizen knows his place. He is born to that place, and the elaborate discipline of training and education and surgery he undergoes fits him at last so completely to it that he has neither ideas nor organs for any purpose beyond it (First ).
Ways to distinguish these extraordinary creatures are present. The intellectual class gave enlarged heads. The literal head of the intellectual society is the Grand Lunar. He had a little dwarfed body that was shriveled and white. His brain-case must have measured many yards in diameter. Here, Wells suggests the intense intelligence of the moon inhabitants. He was insinuating that these Selenites could overtake the human race if they wanted to. This is just one of the aspects of Wells’s “shape of things to come” philosophy.
Some would say The Invisible Man was Wells’ best novel ever. The concept is more social to the reader. It was about a scientist, Griffin, who’s goal is to make living tissue transparent. He makes a formula that can make a human invisible, with no clothes on, for it has no effect on fibers. Wells implies, here, that in the future, a person could actually create an army of invisible men. With all the focus of war in Europe in this time frame, war and new inventions to aid war, were often written about.
The Island of Dr. Moreau is perhaps the most far-fetched novel by H.G. Wells. It is about a man, Dr. Moreau, who genetically engineers humans with characteristics of animals. They are kept in line by a chip embedded in their skin that gives shock treatment to them if they get angry or hostile twards one of the “sayers of the law.” Wells
was possibly one of the first people to think of the idea of genetic engineering. This is phenomenal considering there was no past knowledge of this field. He was truly a prophet of the future.
H.G. Wells is ,perhaps, the most acclaimed science-fiction writer of all time. His extrordinary imagination allows him to make an otherwise unbelievable story, come to life and interest the reader to a point until they are engulfed in the adventure. The reading of The War of the Worlds on Halloween night, 1938, by Orson Welles, sparked horror in the eyes of Americans. The story seemed so real that anyone tuning in thought there was an actual alien invasion happenning. Wells brought new meaning to his phrase, “the shape of things to come.” His world, the world of science and adventure, is one where few writers of his time have dared to enter. It is one where he can explore unknown planets, engage in universal warfare, travel into the distant future, and everything else imaginable.