Summary Sunday – H.G Wells

Due to the industrial revolution with technology advancements the idea of utopia was formed as well as the critics of utopia. However H.G wells plays a vital role in this Utopia/Dystopia divide as him himself wrote both utopian and dystopian novels.

Novels like The modern Utopia and Men like Gods are regarded as the last of the great classical utopian novels before turning towards a darker vision of the modern dystopias[1]. American historian Lewis Mumford called Hg Wells’s novels “The Quintessential Utopia”.

In the modern utopia the countries are connected due to technology and is known as the World State.  The conflation of art and engineering is particularly dramatic in the field of architecture, and Well’s Modern Utopia  is teaming with a world of architectural marvels; [2]

Great arches and domes of glass above the wider spaces of town the slender beauty of the perfect metal[3]  

This descriptive nature of this utopian future in terms of architecture was documented well in  Manifesto of Futurism by  Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.

Even George Orwell agreed with this Utopian future in terms of architecture;

In the early 20th century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient – a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete- was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing[4]

What is revealing in the works such as Men like Gods and A Modern Utopia is that one can view it as an ideal society with something being hidden. The backstreets and shadows of the utopian society which they, the government,  try to sweep under the carpet.

In Men like Gods H.G Well’s “Utopia has no parliament, no politics, no private wealth, no business competition , no police nor prisons, no lunatics, defectives nor cripples.”[5]

What is intriguing is the absence of defective individuals, all of whom have been bred out of the race; this includes not only those of inferior intelligence but those with weak imagination, lethargic tendencies, even susceptible to melancholia or depression. [6]

It are these flaws in utopian novels and ideologies that bring about the criticisms of philosophers and other  novelist such as Aldous Huxley whom was particular critical of Well’s Men Like Gods .

Huxley wrote a letter to Christopher Collins in 1963 saying that Men like Gods;

“annoyed [him] to the point of planning a parody, but when [he] started writing [he] found the idea of a negative Utopia so interesting that [he] forgot about Wells and launched into Brave New World”[7]

H.G wells responded with criticism of Brave new world accusing him of Treason to science and defeatist pessimism.[8]

H.G wells also wrote many dystopian novels as well as “utopian” novels. His most famous dystopian novel War of the Worlds where Martians invade earth. However the novel Time Machine is one of particular importance as it refers  to an utopian ideology and a dystopian reality integrated with political and social views.

The novel is about an unnamed man who invents a time machine with which he travels to the future where he expects to find a utopian society which is portray by utopian literature. However what is particular fascinating about this novel is what he finds is not a world of utopian ideals but of a degeneration of humanity.

One of H.G Wells themes of the novel is the idea of inverse evolution of humanity into a more animalistic state. This was an anxiety of society after the publication of Darwin’s origins of Species. H.G wells represents this with the introduction of a race of humans called the Morlocks. Morlocks are an animalistic race that live underground. they represent the working class of the industrial revolution and can be seen as a parody of the technologically oriented utopians of Bellamy’s[9]Looking Backward.

There is also another race of human in this future, which are known as the Eloi. A passive effete race which live a banal life on the surface of earth. The reason for this is that their ancestors perfected the world so that the Eloi could survive without strength or ingenuity.[10]

I have never met […] people more indolent or more easily fatigued” [11]

This idea of a perfected past is reflected in the film Idiocracy. The Elois are a parody of the pastoral Utopians of Morris’s News from Nowhere.

H.G wells divides these races up to reflect the capitalist society that England was living in and showing the divide between the rich and the poor (the invisibles)[12].

The Morlocks are shown to tend the machine underground whilst the Eloi live a life of luxury which is reflective of the ‘workers’ in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis. The twist of the story is that the Morlocks actually cattle the proletarian Eloi as food to eat on when they desire. At first glance it seems that H.G Wells is confronting the idea of the capitalist ideals and why the workers might start a revolution. However the unnamed time traveller feels sympathetic towards the Eloi which suggest H.G Wells is actually talking about the anxieties and fear of communism.

The structure of Time Machine echoes that of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. [13] This relevance with Stevenson’s novel suggest that you cannot have a perfect , Utopian society as human have a animal instinct inside them which cannot be restrained in a restrictive world state.

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[1] pg 63-64 a dystopian literature: a theory and research guide

[2] pg 64 a dystopian literature: a theory and research guide

[3] pg 244 A modern utopia

[4] George Orwell, 1984, ed Bernard Crick (1949; oxford: Clarendon Press,1984) 319-20

[5] pg 80 Men like Gods

[6] pg  34 Brave New World , History science and dystopia

[7] Quoted in Chrisopher Collins, Evgenij Zamjatin: An Interpretive Study (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), 41. 

[8] Quote in Sybille Bedford, Aldous Huxley: A Biography (New York: Afred A. Knopf/Harper & Row, 1973),253.

[9] pg 284 Dystopian literature: a theory and research guide

[10] pg 284 Dystopian literature: a theory and research guide

[11]pg 37 Time Machine

[12] From the shock of the new documentory

[13] pg 283 – a theory and research guide

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