H. G. Wells Questions and Answers

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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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Satire is a technique used by writers to criticize/ridicule mankind and/or his institutions.  Satire specifically uses humor in order to perform the ridicule and point out flaws or faults.  The intention of satire is to point out the faults of something in order to bring about reform and improvement.  "The Stolen Bacillus" is definitely a satire about science and scientists; however, the humor doesn't appear until the final third of the story.  Before specifically discussing the satire, I will go through the story's use of tension and fear.  

Tension, fear, and worry are all initiated in the very first sentence of the story.  

“This again,” said the Bacteriologist, slipping a glass slide under the microscope, “is a preparation of the celebrated Bacillus of cholera—the cholera germ.”

The Bacteriologist is working with an incredibly dangerous bacteria.  Wells could have had the scientist working with the bacteria that causes strep throat (or something similar).  It's worrisome, but ultimately it isn't likely life threatening.  Cholera, on the other hand, can be deadly within hours.  I'd say that Wells does a nice job of establishing a high degree of tension by simply choosing the right bacteria. 

The tense atmosphere is increased by the presence of an unknown visitor to the lab.  It's one thing to have a trained scientist working with dangerous cultures. It's an entirely different matter to have a pale faced visitor get a "gleam of satisfaction" by being so close to dangerous biologicals.  

The Bacteriologist watched the morbid pleasure in his visitor’s expression.

The unknown visitor just sounds like bad news because he's so excited by something so deadly.  

The Bacteriologist notices his visitor's keen interest in the deadly test tubes, so the Bacteriologist takes the opportunity to really drive home the seriousness of the tube in his hand.  He goes into an extended monologue that focuses on the death that would result if the tube were to break. 

"Only break such a little tube as this into a...

(The entire section contains 682 words.)

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