Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, England. He was part of the working class of England, and his parents were shopkeepers. Wells was involved in an accident at the age of seven, and he developed a love for reading after being stuck at home for several months. Because of a poor education and having to fight to stay out of poverty, Wells became the assistant of a draper, someone who sells clothes. He worked through a few other jobs until he was 18, when he earned a scholarship to the Normal School of Science where he was able to pursue his academic interests. He attended London University and graduated in 1888. In college, he published his first works, and in 1895, he published The Time Machine, which was a big success. After this novel came many more, as he published The Island of Dr. Moreau the following year, The Invisible Man in 1897, The War of the Worlds in 1898, and the First Men in the Moon in 1901. The Time Machine is a story about time travel, The Island of Dr. Moreau involves experimenting with animals and creating a new species, and The War of the Worlds is a story of an alien invasion on Earth.
H.G. Wells later moved on to write comic novels about living in the middle-class, where he reflects on his own life. These novels included Love and Mr. Lewisham,The History of Mr. Polly, and Tono-Bungay. He also wrote nonfiction on top of fiction. He was a book reviewer for the Saturday Review, and he wrote many nonfiction books that began to show his focus on social issues. These works included Anticipations, Mankind in the Making, and A Modern Utopia. Wells predicted many new aspects of the future in Anticipations, such as suburbs, globalization, and military disputes. Wells was also part of the Fabian Society, a socialist group that saw many problems with the current society. In Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, Wells examines some of these socioeconomic issues.
Wells’ later works included mainly novels of social and political commentary, and he transitioned from a fiction writer to an informer. As he puts it, “I would rather be called a journalist than an artist.” He published The Outline of History in 1920, where he discussed the history up until World War I, and he even predicted another war to come. Wells also moved into the field of film, where he wrote The Shape of Things to Come in 1933, which later became a film. Wells was a famous author, and he met many other well known figures of the time while travelling the world. As for his personal life, he married his cousin in 1891, but eventually married another woman in 1895, with whom he had two kids. He was also involved in many affairs and he had some bastard children. 79 year-old Wells died on August 13, 1946 as a well-respected author and remembered for his social and political ideas.
The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)
The Time Machine (1895)
The War of the Worlds (1898)
The Invisible Man (1897)
A Modern Utopia (1905)
Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916)
The History of Mr. Polly (1910)
The Outline of History (1920)
The Shape of Things (1933)
Synopsis of The Time Machine
In the novel The Time Machine, a time traveller tells a story to the narrator and a group of people about his experiences in the future. In the mysterious future, the time traveller meets two different creatures: the small friendly Eloi that live on the surface, and the deformed scary Morlocks that dwell underground. Wells gives the description of these two different type of creatures as perhaps the evolution and distinction of classes of the human race. The Eloi represent the upper class, which have developed into small, lazy, feeble beings incapable of doing any work. The working class have developed into the Morlocks, who all have moved physically below the Eloi. Wells is using this large metaphor to criticize the direction that he sees society progressing in. The time traveller explores the new world that he finds himself in and discovers that the Eloi have taken his time machine, but he cannot find out where they hid it because they speak a different language. Despite the language and species barrier, the time traveller is able to befriend an Eloi, named Weena. The two go on a search for the traveller’s time machine, but they are caught in a conflict when nighttime encroaches on them in the forest. The Morlocks are very sensitive to light, so they only come out from underground after dusk. The time traveller fends off and fights many Morlocks in an attempt to defend himself and Weena, but Weena ends up getting killed. He eventually ends up finding the time machine, and he travels to farther to the future. When he is met by a barren and lifeless land, he returns to his time, and this is the end of his story. Nobody believes this story is true, but later, the narrator sees the time traveller disappear in his lab.
H.G. Wells is an important figure in British Literary history because he is one of the first sci-fi writers, and he is known as the “Father of Science Fiction”. Many of his novels not only told an interesting story but also functioned as an avenue for his criticisms of society. There is also a lot of content to study from H.G. Wells. For some time, H.G. Wells wrote an average of three books a year, and he produced writing for about half a century. It would be very easy to study H.G. Wells because there is so much stuff that he has written, and you could teach a new novel or story every year for the rest of your teaching career. Not to say that Chaucer and Shakespeare are bad, but most of what we read in British Literature is relatively old. H.G. Wells is much more recent, and he discusses issues in his books that are actually relatable to the present. Adding the topic of science fiction into a British Literature would also add a lot more diversity to the reading material because there are not many other English sci-fi writers, let alone to the level that H.G. Wells has achieved.
His work can be used to understand the issues that were going on during his life, which took place in an important time in history. H.G. Wells witnessed the Great War, but unlike many other writers, such as Virginia Woolf, who saw all of the negative repercussion of the war, Wells was not completely put down; he remained optimistic and simply changed his outlook on society. The second World War however, changed his view and made him lose some faith in humanity. Seeing Well’s depictions and predictions of the future change throughout his lifetime can give insights to how pre and post World War I and II in Great Britain was like.
H.G. Wells was almost like a clairvoyant because so many of his future predictions became true. He had ideas ahead of his time, and this makes his work prolific. Many of his novels involves social commentary, much like other British writers that are studied. His War of the Worlds was made into a radio broadcast in 1938, which famously caused mass panic, and this same novel was later made into a movie in 2005. Wells’ work had a tremendous impact during his life, and it still holds to this day, as demonstrated by War of the Worlds. If his story was so compelling that it could make people believe an alien invasion was real, then there must be much more interesting and worthwhile readings from his work. Some of his work is very well-known, and this may make it more interesting to teach in a class, but he has plenty of works that aren’t so popular which may be hidden gems of literature.
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