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H. G. Wells: The Literary Traveller in His Fantastic Short Story Machine

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Halszka Leleń

The book offers a thorough study of the literary tensions and two-world structure of the fantastic short stories by H. G. Wells (1866–1946). It exposes trickster games in the storytelling and pinpoints Wells’s staple methods of artistic composition – the mounting of various literary tensions built upon the body of traditional, dexterously combined genre elements and innovative topoi.
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Chapter 3: Storytelling in the Corner of a Railway Carriage

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Chapter 3:  Storytelling in the Corner of a Railway Carriage

The Tradition of Travel Fiction

Wells’s short stories where the action’s development leads to a confrontation with some fantastic world, hidden in some niche of a quasi-documentary world, are frequently rooted in the much earlier tradition of travel fiction. Characters frequently encounter the fantastic world by means of a journey they undertake. Moreover, the situation of a journey frequently features in the narrative frame when somebody listens to an account of the endeavour delivered by some traveller figure. In the first sentence of “The Apple,” this tradition is powerfully evoked through the context of track-determined travelling, the railway, within the narrative frame of a story of exotic travel that leads to the encounter of a mythical space. The initial sentence, “‘I must get rid of it,’ said the man in the corner of the carriage, abruptly breaking the silence” (152), serves to introduce a series of questions that it takes the whole story to explain.

The situation in which a trickster-devil presents temptation in the form of an apple, within the illusory stability of a railway carriage, an apple that is moreover commonplace and imperfect, provides access to a story of the discovery of a post-lapsarian Eden hidden in the recesses of Mount Ararat. While the traveller’s gift for narrating the story of an exotic journey takes the naïve Mr Hinchcliff along the predictable lines of the fall...

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