The Time Machine (1995) Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Time Machine : Biography

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Herbert George Wells was the fourth child of a struggling shopkeeper (Joseph) and his wife, a lady’s maid (Sarah). He was largely homeschooled and self-taught.  He did earn a certificate in accounting at age 13. At age 14, financial hardship forced him, his parents, and his two brothers to be separated, and Wells became a student teacher at a school in Somerset.  He began an apprenticeship to a chemist when 15, but lost the position for breaking glass.  An apprenticeship at a drapery followed, but Wells hated the menial and tedious work and resolved to pursue higher education.  In 1884, he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science at South Kensington (today, a part of the University of London), where he met arguably the most important teacher of his life. 
T. H. Huxley was an eminent biologist often called “Darwin’s Bulldog” because he was a strong proponent of Charles Darwin’s recently advanced theory of evolution. (Of literary interest, Huxley was also the grandfather of Aldous Huxley, author of the novel Brave New World (1932)). The theory of evolution would prove to be a powerful theme for Wells. The “implications of Darwin’s evolutionary theory and the desire to oppose and eradicate the injustices and hypocrisies of contemporary society… run through all H.G. Wells’ work” (Clute & Nicholls, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, p. 1313).
Three years later, Wells was diagnosed with tuberculosis. During a long period of bed rest, he decided to become a writer. In addition to articles for science and education journals, he wrote two textbooks (in physiography and biology). “The most ambitious and important of his early articles was ‘The Man of the Year Million’ (1893), which boldly describes Man as H.G. Wells thought natural selection would ultimately make him: a creature with a huge head and eyes, delicate hands and a much reduced body, permanently immersed in nutrient fluids, having been forced to retreat beneath the Earth’s surface after the cooling of the sun” (Clute & Nicholls, 1313). He also began a series of articles for his own self-published journal, articles that eventually became his first novel, The Time Machine (1895). Wells followed The Time Machine with other “scientific romances,” The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Invisible Man (1897). 
Wells continued to publish science fiction novels that remain influential in the genre even today, including The First Men in the Moon, In the Days of the Comet (1906) and The War in the Air (1908). He also began writing on political and social issues of the day. His political activism led him to join the Fabian Society (define, and talk about socialism, and friendship and conflict with Bernard Shaw). A lecture published in 1902 as The Discovery of the Future “marked a turning-point in his thought and work; from then on he abandoned the wide-ranging, exploratory and unashamedly whimsical imagination which had produced his early scientific romances and focused on the probable development of future history and the reforms necessary to create a better world” (Clute & Nicholls, p. 1314).
He advocated for the League of Nations following World War I. He had initially been enthusiastic when the war began, believing as he did “that a new and better world could be built only once the existing social order had been torn down” (Clute & Nicholls, p. 1314). But he “dubbed the post-1918 world the ‘Age of Frustration’” (ibid). Wells eventually enjoyed a reputation as a major political thinker with such works as The Common Sense of World Peace and The Shape of Things to Come; also the highly regarded The Outline of History.
H.G. Wells died at home on August 13, 1946.


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