Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins

Keywords

aesthetics, Congo, England, estrangement, impressionism, modernism

Abstract

Much work has been done on the relationship between fin de siècle authors H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Ford Madox Ford. As Nicholas Delbanco explains, these writers lived closely to one another in Kent during the transition into the Twentieth Century. While scholars have stressed the collaboration between Conrad and Ford and the disagreements between Wells and James, fewer have treated the relationship of Wells and Conrad. Their most widely read works, The Time Machine and Heart of Darkness, share remarkable similarities that reveal common topical influences on both writers. Furthermore, I argue that Wells and his novella influenced some aspects of Conrad's most popular text.

From a historical contextual approach, I examine the relationship between the two authors, several themes shared by the two works, and their balance between social criticism and aesthetic responses. The novels feature a movement through time and space, a divided humanity, and cannibalism. The Time Machine critiques England's socioeconomic circumstances and the Social Darwinist belief in progress, while Heart of Darkness depicts the Belgian Congo under the merciless King Leopold II. Wells and Conrad rejected the artistic labels of impressionism and aestheticism, though their novels fulfill many aims of these movements. An understanding of the Wells-Conrad friendship and fin de siècle society opens each text to interpretations from diverse areas of criticism and is key in identifying the most important elements of the novels.

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