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The Stolen Bacillus Theme

Please explain how H.G. Wells makes use of tension and fear to make "The Stolen Bacillus" a chilling satire on the dangers of science.

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"The Stolen Bacillus" by H.G. Wells is a satiric short story about the potential dangers posed by the world of science. Satire is using humor or wit as a form of ridicule which exposes flaws or faults in mankind or his institutions; the intention must be to help improve either man or the institution. In this story, Wells is satirizing the institution of science as well as the role of anarchists in society.

The atmosphere of "tension and fear" is created from the beginning in several ways. First, of course, is the consistent mention of the dread word: cholera. Just the word conjures up images of death, horrible suffering and the plague. We are afraid of what might happen, even though the bacteriologist assures us that these specimens "have been stained and killed" and are therefore no longer dangerous.

Second, the mysterious visitor to the lab is consistently described as "the pale-faced man," something which conjures a mystery of danger and intrigue.

Third, the deadly virus is being kept in a tube, a tube which keeps readers just a little breathless with anticipation because we know a little glass tube can easily be broken or stolen--and both things eventually do happen. 

Fourth, we begin to see a transformation in the pale-faced man as we see a gleam in his eyes as he becomes more and more mesmerized by the sight of the deadly bacteria in the tube, "devouring the little tube with his eyes." It is especially chilling when he begins to recite the litany of ways in which the deadly virus might be silently transmitted to every person and animal. The more he talks, the more we know that this is not only something he has given much thought to, but it is something he almost anticipates with delight.

Note the language of death in...

(The entire section contains 606 words.)

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