This intensely autobiographical novel may be read in three ways: as the portrait of an eccentric, upper-class English family coping with war; as a record of the shifts in English public opinion during the years 1914-1916; and as a plea for world government and theistic faith.
With astonishing honesty, H. G. Wells detailed his own confused psyche, marital infidelities, family tensions, and the ways of his community. The hockey games, costume parties, and easy conversations give way to endless anxiety over food supplies, mobilization, quartering, and the safety of Hugh and Teddy. Only with the departure of Heinrich do the Britlings realize the extent of their affection for him. Hugh’s remarkable letters from the trenches and the description of Mr. Britling’s mourning constitute some of Wells’s best writing. The novel was immensely popular and provoked many expressions of sympathy. Ironically, the account of Hugh’s death was one of the few departures from autobiography in the book.
Wells’s views, like those of his contemporaries, changed frequently and radically during this period. Mr. Britling complacently trusts in civilizing reason to forestall war; he then is aggressively anti-German; despondency and a “plague on both houses” attitude follows; and this mood is ultimately superseded by the vision of a League of Nations. Through Direck and Heinrich, Wells articulates American and German viewpoints, and Lady Frensham speaks for the...
(The entire section is 344 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Mr. Britling Sees It Through Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!