‘I was grotesque […] but I was certainly not a physical impossibility’ A Study of the Human, the ‘Other’ and the Deformed Body in H.G. Wells’s Early Scientific Romances

  • Victoria L Jones

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This dissertation uses a disability studies approach to create a revisionary interpretation of H. G. Wells’s early scientific romances: The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898). It will show how the binary between able-bodied and the physically disabled is represented in these texts through the human and the ‘Other’, specifically by examining the physical differences between the human and non-human characters in each novel.
The project aims to show how Wells questions and undermines the binary, exposing it as a cultural construct, created by prejudice and fear. Chapter One examines the different appearances and behaviours of the human and the ‘Other’ in The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau. It shows how Wells confuses who the ‘Other’ is, allowing the reader to question the validity of the binary.
Chapter Two investigates the material boundaries that physically separate the human from the ‘Other’. It demonstrates how walls and barriers in The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine are permeable or damaged. This reflects how attitudes towards ‘otherness’ and disability can be broken down and changed.
By exposing the culturally constructed binary, Chapter Three discusses how acceptance through understanding of bodily variation, could overcome the binary. The chapter evaluates how Wells uses light imagery in The Invisible Man as evidence for Wells’s advocacy for increased knowledge of the socially excluded ‘Other’.
Re-reading Wells’s scientific romances from a disability studies perspective increases opportunities to question and dismantle the false binary between the human and supposed ‘Other’. Thus, while Wells is not usually understood as a pro-disability advocate, his scientific romances can be understood as contributing to increased acceptance of those who do not fit a normative bodily ideal and questioning its social stigma.
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSamantha Matthews (Supervisor)

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