I’ve been asked why I did not consider Wells’ Mr Polly suitable for New Zealand school students. They find it hard to comprehend the English class system, which of course was even more hidebound at the end of the 19th century.
I’ve finished reading The Food of the Gods. Wells’ mellow vicar and lady of the manor might be comic to the reader but they are representative of the era. It’s an interesting read – the first part, mankind’s heroic efforts to cope with the result of a scientific experiment’s unexpected natural consequences - giant wasps and rats. It’s Boy’s Own Stuff. The second part concerns the chasm separating the new giant humans and the ordinary beings trying to get on with their lives. It is the latter who have become ‘petty-minded, pygmy, reactionary, corpselike’ – Roger’s description.
We are left up in the air at the end of the story. But Wells’ sympathies are clear. He is a visionary futurist. The giants signpost the way to a better world. But my abiding memory of this compelling read is the young giant Caddles – alone, lower class, bewildered, uneducated – a sad and comic figure. Well’s Dickensian mixture of pathos and caricature makes his predictable death even more tragic. The other giants by contrast are straw figures
The other memory is the Kent countryside. Let Wells have the last word. ‘The whole prospect had that curiously English quality of ripened cultivation, that look of still completeness that apes perfection, under the sunset warmth.’
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