Aspect of H.G. Wells’ Novel “When the Sleeper Wakes”
“When the Sleeper Wakes,” an original story published between 1898 and 1903 and written by H.G. Wells represents the passionate, socialistic outcry of the author in the form of a futuristic tale that features an Englishman (protagonist) called Graham. The story takes place in London, and the man Graham finds himself a bit disoriented due to the fact that he has slept for approximately 203 years apparently as a result of tampering with drugs to cure his insomnia. Apparently H. G. Wells embraces a fascination pertaining to dystopian literature that presents the preponderance of several aspects of human nature. These aspects may quite well include elements of time travel, future possibilities in terms of human society, and Earthly life in general. It is important however, to note at the outset the futuristic ideology in this discussion has nothing to do with the sense of the ‘art movement’ for example, or as encountering the supposition as futurologist scientists. The argument of this essay states that without a science fiction novel of dystopian futuristic worlds as such, that our modern world could not prepare to avoid these disastrous structures, because somehow it may help us to stay clear of these kinds of episodes which would obviously (and definitely) be unacceptable for our outcome.
In the original novel story by H. G. Wells, “When the Sleeper Wakes” as Graham awakes to the confusion besetting him in a London setting far into the future, which he finds mind-boggling as he emerges from his long slumber he eventually learns that due to compounded interest on investments, he is the ruling king over the society. This shocking status of Graham in an insanely wealthy position begs the question: Has this reality, or matrix, become an enormous expression or indication of things that could be, but will never really happen? The pervading political unhappiness displays in the words written by this visionary fictionist promotes a discomfort akin to the scenario in his other literary work, “The Time Machine.” But the socially awareness of the movements towards unacceptable political realities seems to drive Wells’ comprehension in writing the story in the first place. Can things be changed? Will such futuristic horrors infect our human Earthly world unless we make deliberate moves to stay clear from these unrelenting fallacies? Ironically enough, Wells was wise enough to recognize the truth of the old adage that indeed time will tell. The depth of this truth even echoed the verbiage of Malcolm X who fought for the rights of black Americans to have an equality of status, and disdaining mistreatment of people.
The argument made in this piece however, speaks the validity of the modern science fiction dystopian piece as a core and separate literary genre that serves as a warning. Mistakes in thinking must not be entertained at this point. For example, one might be tempted to fathom the concept that makes someone happy to be in charge, or that material wealth in tangible goods must always solve the problem. But you must simply as yourself, could you truly be happy or content (let alone joyful) if you were the richest person in the world having all the money and tangible assets while people in the Earth are woefully depressed, sad, or even starving? This observer thinks not. As you can clearly detect from reading “When the Sleeper Wakes” poor Graham seems to harbor more internal problems and worries than we have been taught to be troubled over. In other words, we have been taught by the mindless matrix of advertising that if your bank account is not at a certain level, or you are unable to financially afford to drive a certain expensive car, or wear the latest costly fashions (while being impossibly thin) – then you are not given a chance to be happy, and you have failed at the proper goals.
Wells’ marvelous insight in “When the Sleeper Wakes” describes or hints at the possibilities of a future and tragically dystopian society that points to the failures of what we should value. At the bottom line, for example, we should value each other as unique individuals who have a wealth of soul, spirit, or intellect to be able to enjoy each other and create a world in which a journey of true progress ensues. Has Graham reached a world of true progress, or walked into a future wherein even he himself is free? The answer is no. Graham is effectively a prisoner in his own right, so to speak, and caught up in a fantasy of fantasies and has been given a precious glimpse on how to avoid these structure becoming a reality in our future. We must either use our own creativity and logic to explain the terminology and language that Wells uses in the story. Language matters. To prove the validity of that statement one need not look any further than all the leaders and freedom fighters who sought to make a politically fair society. What happened when they wrote their thoughts, spoke their ideologies? Of course, they were all assassinated, murdered, or killed – however you wish to look at it. See the problem?
In any case the reader or audience that Wells anticipated were meant to pay attention to the language. We can only look back at other articles on literary criticism, study the historical time frame in which London, England existed at the time Wells wrote the story, and perhaps seek out interviews of his explanations and ideas. But the point remains that Wells did not take the use of language for granted. No true writer does. It is critical to note at this juncture that not all writers are authors, and not all authors are true writers but H. G. Wells happened to be both. When Wells describes the protagonist Graham’s interactions and meeting with Ostrog and his brother seems to imply that something ‘foreign’ is amiss and has invaded the future world with madness. This madness is masquerading as something that is right, just, or correct and somehow worth acceptance. Also pay attention to the framework around the language of how Wells utilizes the term, the “White Council.” You may use your own imagination on that one to help unravel the drive for increasing political power and material wealth. Some philosophical arguments would draw a correlation to the mistakes of colonialism in the present world, yet admittedly there is a digression here momentarily.
Getting back on track in terms of the argument that in “When the Sleeper Wakes” Wells has managed to pen a fantastic science fiction novel of dystopia that clearly lets us know we have a helpful hint to stay clear of such structures despite the counter-arguments that tell us otherwise. These counter-arguments may portray that a cookie cutter world in which all people of the Earth are controlled and kept in a weakened state of ‘sleep’ then the ruling political councils may better attend to, and take care of their interests. But the problem comes in when you must identify what those interests are. In Wells story Graham is held up almost like a god, and is considered to be a savior after the part in which the people come to be dissatisfied and endure an acceptance of the White Council’s surrender. But the inevitable happens when after Graham gets involved with communication of a woman character of Wells’ invention, called Helen Wotton. The fact is revealed that the people are still experiencing misery whether under the rulership of the White Council or the Ostrog Empire, as it were. What kind of modern world is ideal or best? This is the question of inquiry that Wells is concerned with. We need to listen to writers (some of whom are authors) who have vitally important things to say.
In other words, there are lessons. These lessons to be learned snap our minds out the matrix. While it may be true that our modern society has become familiar with the term and concept of a bad reality from the film Matrix, we can easily see that H. G. Wells took an interest in challenging the status quo many years ago. Otherwise, if this were not true he never would have written the books he had written. Certain parallels in ideology mark his path of critical analysis and great talent in telling the stories. Today’s modern world appears to be moving into the arena in which a larger and larger portion of society members are actually working as lower-paid and lower class individuals who constantly struggle against poverty, and have nothing to look forward to – in terms of creating lives of meaning and greater fulfillment. Also this novel by Wells makes you ponder what is worthwhile work, and our responsibilities to each other as human beings. Are unique and individual identities to be scorned or embraced? How can one person be happy when so many are starving and miserable? The craft of storytelling ushers in critical understandings of which all people should strive to be aware. Each person has an important role, and it seems that Wells was painfully aware of this fact. Obviously, Wells saw a deeper vision and wanted to communicate that vision to his fellow human beings. His story screams at you! He is saying: Wake up! We must learn the lessons and value reading what science fiction dystopian future novels can tell us. Susan Schneider edited a collection of book essays in which John Pollack wrote, in his story “A Brain in a Vat,” states “I found myself looking up at the scariest group of medical men I had ever seen” (18). It makes you wonder what he meant by that.
Orwell, George. 1984. Barcelona: Debolsillo, 2013. Print.
Schneider, Susan. Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence.
West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print.
Wells, H. G. The time machine. New York: Random House, 1931. Print.