Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Displacement and its discontents – two gems of H.G.Wells

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on September 6, 2012

As animate beings we take many of our physical and mental characteristics for granted. So much so, that we are not even remotely conscious of the singular advantages that have been conferred on us by nature. Our morphology, sense organs, language, culture and ability to ideate are some of these advantage rendering characteristics. Yet these same advantages come to naught when we are displaced from the settings in which our characteristics are designed to work. ‘Displacement and its discontents’ – that appears to be the key theme of H.G.Wells’s ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘The Country of the Blind’.

Griffin, the anti-hero of ‘The Invisible Man’ displaces himself out of the ordinary world by becoming invisible, while Nunez, through serendipity displaces himself out of the ordinary into the world of blind in ‘The Country of the Blind’. The interesting aspect is that at the start of their fateful journeys, both entertain notions of unquestionable advantage and power over their surroundings. Griffin, in a moment of sobriety testifies to this view when he says:

And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom

and for Nunez, the drumbeat theme is that of power:

In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King

However, both realize that they are glaringly wrong about what their positions have to offer them. And as events unfold, they arrive at conclusions which are diametrically opposite to their starting positions. While ego, hubris and luckless circumstances lead Griffin to untimely death; clever adaptation, rationalization and maturity keep Nunez’s hopes of escape alive. Through this depiction of differentiated reactions to displacement, H.G.Wells offers an unforgettable lesson of warning to mankind that there are alternative paradigms which sometimes are beyond our comprehension and need to be dealt with wisdom and humility to avoid disastrous consequences.

( I re-read these classics as part of an online course on Science Fiction I am currently pursuing at http://www.coursera.org and this brief essay is part of my assignment submission)

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