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January - 'The Sleeper Awakes' - End of Month Discussion!

posted Jan 31, 2014 11:50:36 by Alice
Well, that was quite the slog wasn't it! I don't know about you, but it wasn't until the last third of the book that I was interested and began underlining and making notes (most common note: 'more racism' - it's not hard to guess why this book isn't a classic). Steve, as far as I'm aware, has failed to finish the book - yet, anyway. Come on Steve, we know you can do it!!

Tell us what you enjoyed, what you hated. The following are my points of discussion, that I was considering while reading:

1. Different but the Same

The main aspect of Well's future that disappointed me was that the change from Graham's Victorian world were superficial. Architecture, clothing etc... had all changed, but there was no significant social or cultural attitude change.

2. Racism & Sexism (and freedom for all straight white men)

'"Men and women of the new age," he said; "you have arisen to do battle for the race!... There is no easy victory before us."' Graham p.148 (of my version)

'"I come out of the past to you," he said, "with the memory of an age that hoped. My age was an age of dreams-if beginnings, an age of nobel hopes; throughout the world we made an end of slavery; throughout the world we had spread the desire and anticipation that wars might cease, that all men and women might live nobly, in freedom and peace.... So we hoped in the days that are past. And what of those hopes? How is it with man after two hundred years?"' Graham p. 149 (of my version)

Graham makes this speech at the end, and boy did it feel ironic. Wells is consistently racist and misogynist, both overtly and subtly in regurgitating the ingrained ideals of his time.

'"The negroes are coming"' p. almost every page in the last third of the book
'"White men must be mastered by white men. besides-"
"The negroes are only an instrument."
"But that is not the question. I am the Master. I mean to be the Master. And I tell you these negroes shall not come."' - Graham and Ostrog p. 141 (of my version)

The 'big scary black man' trope is constantly used as a threat, and while black people are no longer the slaves in Wells' dystopia, they are still dehumanised. They are grouped together as a feral police who will destroy on command, without conscience or 'polite British battle standards'. This attitude is abhorrent! I wanted to wipe out this ignorant world and start it again, it was very frustrating that I couldn't crawl into the world and do so!

Interestingly, Wells' dystopian nightmare contains hippies and women free from the sole confines of motherhood. For Graham being anything but a pure mother is abhorrent to him. Women have no place in the action of society, they should be passive, emotive and delicate. Helen, is the passionate, emotional women who shows Graham the light, and she is one of the most pathetic female characters I have ever encountered - why couldn't she take action if her society bothered her so much! She's a passive angel, guiding Graham to righteousness.

Graham is continually confused by the hyper feminism of many of the inhabitants of his new world, and does not approve. However, interestingly it is only the men that have evolved to metrosexuality, the women have not become masculinised. Except in that they now work and play freely, however, this is depicted at the detriment of their neglected children - and a source for the decline in the population.

'"There's a thousand forms of work for women now. But you had the beginning of the independent working-woman in your days. Most women are independent now. Most of these are married more or less- there are a number of methods of contract- and that gives them more money, and enables them to enjoy themselves."' - Asano p. 130 (of my version)

That doesn't sound too bad, a nice future for women. But no, Graham - leader of all - has other ideas.

'"Of course, in our time, a woman was supposed not only to bear children, but to cherish them, to devote herself to them, to educate them-all the essentials of moral and mental education a child owed it's mother. Or went without. Quite a number, I admit, went without. [...] Only there was an ideal- that figure of a grave, patient woman, silently and serenely mistress of a home, mother and maker of men- to love her was a sort of worship."' Graham p.130 (of my version)

The only people Graham wants to help are the poor white men of London, living below the breadline, the humiliated poor. We can't have slavery of the white man after-all......

RAGE! The amount of notes I made that just said 'more racism' was ridiculous.

3. The Poor & Rose Tinted Glasses

Wells' wrote The Sleeper Awakes in 1910, well before the welfare state. What do you think he is saying about the way the poor were treated at the time? Or, conversely, is Wells lamenting the change of the world, calling a return to Victorian values?

4. Empire

London, the capital of the world - all under one British sleeper. Interesting that Wells saw Britain retaining its supremacy. Had Wells written this after both world wars, do you think the notion of empire would have been vastly different. I think the Boer war, the influence of Kipling, and the 'Fuzzy Wuzzies' would not have been the enemy, however, I believe 'the fear of the black man' would still have been prevalent in the writing.

It is interesting that when the British are perpetrators of the elimination of a race of people, it's heroic and celebrated, but anyone else dares presume they can do the same are evil.

[Last edited Jan 31, 2014 18:57:49]
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