H. G. Wells : as a Novelist of Modernism

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      H. G. Wells as a novelist, is a follower of Meredith and adopts the novel as the vehicle of his philosophy of life and general idea on society with all its multifarious problems. In this respect he resembles Shaw, who is a propagandist in his dramas. But like Shaw, he has no set philosophy of life which may give a sort of unity to all works. He is a great intellectual irritant, who through his pages has awakened and stimulated the men of average intelligence to think on the various social problems and evils. He is like a social prophet who seems to say, "Let us plan our future and at all costs get our best men on the deck."

H. G. Wells as a novelist, is a follower of Meredith and adopts the novel as the vehicle of his philosophy of life and general idea on society with all its multifarious problems.
H. G. Wells

      H. G. Wells firmly believes that the "attainment of a federation of all humanity, together with a sufficient measure of social justice, to ensure health, education and a rough equality of opportunity to most of the children born into the world would mean such a release and increase of human energy as to open a new phase ot human history." Thus socialism is his panacea for all the evils of the modern capitalistic system, and it will veritably bring in the golden age. But as to the means of attainment of this ideal he cannot offer any definite suggestions. He feels perplexed at the enormous difficulties of the problems of the present.

      Thus the novels of H. G. Wells are essentially novels of ideas. The range is wide, -  from the educational problems to the religious ones, there is nothing which he has not brought under his lens and focussed light upon. Thus, like Shaw he might well say - "for art's sake, I would not take the toil of writing a single line." In his article, The Contemporary Novel, he has laid down the recipe for a modern novelist. The novelist is going to be the most potent of artists, because he is going to present conduct, devise beautiful conduct, discuss conduct, analyse conduct, suggest conduct, illuminate it through and through.

      H. G. Wells, as a student of science was much interested in it and wrote many scientific fantasies in the early part of his career. Some of the more important and popular of these are The Time Machine, The Wonderful Visit, The Invisible Man, The Food of the Gods, The First Men in the Moon, The island of Dr. Moreau. In all these romances the immense possibilities of science and littleness of men are constantly dwelt on. The illusion of reality is produced in them with a wealth of details and rich characterisation. His characters are not mere puppets drawn by a string for the purpose of creating a setting for the story of flying machines, escalators, peculiar forms of food, etc. They are drawn with imagination and insight and made lively and vital. For instance, the two adventures in the Moon are drawn with a few deft touches and individualised, though the interest of the novel lies in the scientific speculations. Thus Wells even in his most fantastic romances never lost sight of the human factors.

      It is, however, in his sociological novels, in the pictures of the middle class life, that Wells is at his best. He is a prolific writer and has written more than hundred novels, the naming of which is itself a difficult task, not to speak of their contents and art value. The earlier in the group, for instance, Kipps, Tono Bungay, Love of Mr. Lewishara, The Passionate Friends are fresh and valuable contributions to the fictions dealing with middle class life. In these the story-teller in the same as in the scientific fictions. Only in place of of the physical sciences, he has given us the science sociology. He is still more of a scientist rather than an artist, more of a satirist than the dispassionate painter. There are interesting incidents and dramatic scenes, visualised characters and humorous, natural style in all his novels.

      As in the case of Shaw, the charge has been brought against Wells that the thinker in him has tripped up the artist. To him the matter is more important than manner. His didactic purpose hangs like a dead weight on his stories and in spite of the qualities of humour, narration, characterisation, his novels suffer from a lack of realism and vitality. Wells is more of an intellectual irritants reformer than an entertaining story-teller. But Shaw is an artist in his own way: His abounding humour, scintillating wit and hilarious fun have made him one of the great artists in English literature. H. G. Wells is deficient in this respect.

      H. G. Wells was the most prolific of the major modem writers. His fantastic and scientific novels include Time Machine (1895), The War of the Worlds (1897) The Invisible Man (1897), The Sleeper Awakes (1911), The First Man in the Moon (1901), etc. His novels dealing with real life are Love and Mr. Lezwisham (1900), Kipps (1905), Tono Bungay (1909), The History of Mr Polly (1910) and The New Machiavelli (1911). He wrote novels of discussion and social criticism which include The World Set Free (1914), The Wife of Issac Harman, The Research Magnificent (1915), Mr. Bristling sees it through (1919), The Undying Fire (1919). After the great war of (1914-1918) Wells directed fiction to the discussion of world organisation and reconstruction - An Englishman looks at the World (1914), The War that will end War (1914). The Elements of Reconstruction (1916), The Salvaging of Civilisation (1912) and Washington and the Hope of Peace (1922).

      H. G. Wells was a propagandist. In The Contemporary Novel, he gives his view of the novel. The novel is a "powerful instrument of moral suggestion". He states that "art which does not argue nor demonstrate nor discuss is merely the craftsman's impudence". In his scientific romances, he showed his fantastic and fecund imagination. In his social novels, he attacked social evils in a furious manner. He attacked moral perversities in The New Machiavelli and modern commercialism in Tono Bungay. As a social thinker, he ranks with George Bernard Shaw. He was concerned with the reconstruction of modern society on a more equitable basis. Tono Bungay is a socialist propaganda. The fake medicine and the rise and fall of its opportunistic promoter symbolise a disintegrating society. The spread of education, according to him, is the solution of the problems of inequality of many social evils. The New World Order (1914) offers education as man's hope.

      Wells did not care for plot or story; he relies on ideas. He made the novel an instrument of social, political and educational discussion, criticism and reform. But what astonishes the readers is his creative-exuberance. His creative energy can be fittingly compared with that of Dickens. He created a rich variety of characters and his skill lies in the presentation of odd, eccentric and humorous characters such as Uncle Pondervo and Mr Polly. His humour is associated with oddities of character and action and is sometimes allied to pathos. It is however worldly and ordinary like the humour of Arnold Bennett. His humour often masks serious things. In this respect, he is different from Dickens.

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