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Publication details

James, Simon J. (2012). Witnessing the End of the World: H. G. Wells's Educational Apocalypses. Literature and Theology 26(4): 459-473.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

H.G. Wells professed himself to be antipathetic to religion in general, and to
the extremes of Protestantism and Catholicism which he experienced during
his upbringing in particular. In The Outline of History (1920) and Experiment in
Autobiography (1934), both written later in his career, Wells professes his
non-belief, and laments what he sees as the Church’s negative influence
on the intellectual and social development of mankind. Nonetheless, his
fantastic writing frequently makes use of Judaeo-Christian tropes of the
end of the world. Performing as a secular kind of hellfire preacher, Wells’s
didactic portrayals of the end of the world function as an apocalyptic revelation,
in the hope that his audience might be shocked into grasping the
‘truths’ of his political programme of universal education and a utopian
World State. The War of the Worlds (1898) in particular draws on biblical
language and eschatological imagery, and even contains a theological debate
between the text’s narrator and a curate whose belief is wavering.
Surprisingly, given Wells’s later account of his own beliefs, the narrator
himself is a Christian, and his faith endures the Martian invasion—he even
thanks God for world’s deliverance from the Martians and speculates
whether the Martians themselves too believe in Him. Wells’s visions of
eschatology in his scientific romances give him both a mode for addressing
his readership, and a way of dramatising his own personal convictions.