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Witnessing the end of the world : H. G. Wells's educational apocalypses.

Oxford University Press
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  • Education
  • Literature
  • Political Science
  • Religious Science


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.

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