The Uses of Literacy
Reading and Realism in Wells’s Novels
Wells had reproved earlier naturalist novelists for depicting only the stranglehold of material conditions on the development of the self, but doing nothing to change those conditions. Wells’s realist fiction shows the failure of his protagonists to fulfil their laudable aspirations, but develops a narrative technique that simultaneously articulates a critique of the imperfect social structures that ensure such failure. The Wheels of Chance, Love and Mr. Lewisham, and Kipps all allow the possibility of hopeful development for exceptional individuals in future social reorganization. Tono-Bungay is the novel that splinters the frame of Wells’s literary realism: henceforth his fiction becomes pre-eminently a utopian and political discourse.
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