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Wells and Darwin
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 fi
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