Results and Discussions
Conclusions and Implications
The present paper aims to study how the works of H. G. Wells do not simply convey the support of dominant culture while reflecting its inner tensions and contradictions. Literature plays an active role in the creation of power relations. However, it does not reflect the culture in which it is produced, but actively contributes to the constitution of culture and history. On the other hand, the works of H. G. Wells represent their author as the modernist practitioner of Victorian standards. The works have the capacity of reflecting dissident by suggesting the inner contradictions of social order in their world of fantasy. The present study is conducted on some major works of Wells including The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man.
Key terms: H. G. Wells, Culture, contradiction, Victorian, society
Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), the English novelist, can be taken into account as a prominent figure in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature. He lived in a society which was experiencing the clashes created by the transition of Victorian values to modernism. Wells’ first training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also a frank socialist, often sympathizing with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of "Journalist." Most of his later novels were not science fiction. Some described lower-middle class life, led him to be publicized as a follower of Charles Dickens. His most famous science fiction works include The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man. In The Time Machine, Wells advanced his social and political ideas in this narrative of a nameless Time Traveler who is thrown into the year 802,701 by his machine. The world he finds has two races: the decadent Eloi, fluttery and useless, are dependent for food, clothing, and shelter on the simian subterranean Morlocks, who prey on them. The two races—whose names are borrowed from the Biblical Eli and Moloch—symbolize Wells’ vision of capitalism: the upper class that would eventually be devoured by a proletariat driven to the depths. The War of the Worlds is the story of 12 days in which invaders from Mars attack the planet Earth, captured popular imagination with its fast-paced narrative and images of Martians and interplanetary travel. The humans in The War of the Worlds initially treat the invasion with complacency but soon are provoked into a defensive state of war. The text of the Island of Dr. Moreau is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature. The Invisible Man is the story concerns the life and death of a scientist named Griffin who has gone mad. Having learned how to make himself invisible, Griffin begins to use his invisibility for wicked purposes, including murder. When he is finally killed, his body becomes visible again. Finally, works of Wells represent their author as the modernist practitioner of Victorian standards. Illustrating the modern utopia – Wells has a work under the same title – through its dystopian traits, describing the confrontation of science and the supernatural, duality of culture and nature, opposing the realization of salvation and destruction are some of the major contradictions employed in the fiction of H. G. Wells.
Associated with American New Historicism, Cultural Materialism is a British-oriented literary theory which deals with the horizon of culture in terms of ideological constructions and discursive formations in regard with literature which plays an active role in the creation of power relations. However, it does not reflect the culture in which it is produced, but actively contributes to the constitution of culture and history. There is a general agreement that the movement is continuation of thought of the Welsh thinker Raymond Williams and his particular reading of Marxism which stressed the role of ideology, institutions and possibilities for subversion or dissidence and also his adaptations of Gramsci’s hegemony. But an undeniable reality is the effect of Foucauldian Post-Structuralism and his terminology of the concepts like power, discourse, ideology, and above all history on constituting Cultural Materialism. It generally says that the dominant culture is always threatened by other ideologies and is never more than one player in the cultural field. But what does Cultural Materialism say exactly about literature?
As a response, one may summarize the assumptions of Cultural Materialism about literature from Literary Theory: The Basics by Hans Bertens. Firstly, the position of author is the subject of challenge. Subjects cannot transcend their own time while they have internalized the ideological constructions which they live in. And those constructions inevitably become part of their work. Cultural materialism rejects the absolute meaning of genius of the author as well as independence of the literary work. Although the role of author is not thoroughly negated, it is determined by historical circumstances. Then, literary texts like any other types including religious, political, economic, legal and so on has no special access to genuine, transcendental truth, it needs no special treatment, but is read alongside a wide variety of non-literary texts. Cultural Materialists are willing to show how literary texts are instruments of dominant socio-cultural order. They also demonstrate how the apparent coherence of the order is threatened from the inside by inner contradictions and by tensions that it seeks to hide. These contradictions have been called ‘dissident potential’ of literary text by Alan Sinfield. Dissidence is the result of inner contradictions characterizes any social order. Readings of dissidence in Cultural Materialism allow us to hear the marginalized of society and the process of shaping marginalization and exclusion. On the other hand, dissident reading from the past acts like political intervention in the present and political challenges to the conservative. Its critical practice tries to impress political change in the present, especially from socialist and feminist point of view.
Accordingly, Cultural Materialism tries to reveal dissidence, subversion and transgression are related to contemporary political challenges. By doing so, it is interested to suggest that literature from the past has been made to work in contemporary culture, both in its institutionalized and in its popular forms. Generally speaking, contemporary culture is a battlefield where a dominant ideology must continuously be challenged.
In The Time Machine, the inner contradictions of the Victorian social order have been indicated in form of the opposition of social classes as one of the major themes of the novel. Quoting from some critics, Amrollah Abjadian in his A Survey of English Literature II accuses the Victorian period of moral hypocrisy, sentimentalism and social snobbery. It seems that H. G. Wells has juxtaposed the three traits of the Victorians in the world of fantasy with the Eloi and the Morlocks. On the one hand, Time Traveler, the protagonist, finds the Eloi wealthy and peaceful. On the other hand, they are too weak to defend themselves and are being threatened and hunted by the Morlocks who represent the poor laborers. In fact, morality, sentimentalism and social snobbery of the Victorian wealthy class reflected by the Eloi, has been challenged by the Morlocks as the opposite social class. This method of reading which uncovers the inner contradiction of social order has dissident potential to deconstruct the understanding of dominant culture which is the Victorian one in this novel.
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