H. G. Wells Questions and Answers

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In "The Stolen Bacillus," how does the author bring out the contrast between the Bacteriologist and the Anarchist? Are there any similarities between the two characters?

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think one way that the narrator contrasts the Anarchist and the Bacteriologist is by focusing quite a bit on the Anarchist's physical traits. We are told repeatedly that the Anarchist is pale-faced. A bit later we get a great sentence that talks about his hair color and some other physical traits.

The lank black hair and deep grey eyes, the haggard expression and nervous manner, the fitful yet keen interest of his visitor were a novel change from the phlegmatic deliberations of the ordinary scientific worker with whom the Bacteriologist chiefly associated.

The black hair has to stand out against such a pale face, but the overall image being created seems to be one of a sickly looking individual. We don't get this kind of narration about the Bacteriologist. We hear him talk and can listen to some of his thoughts, but he really doesn't get a physical image until he starts running after the Anarchist. Once that happens, the narration tends to focus on how silly the scientist looks.

The Bacteriologist, hatless, and in his carpet slippers, was running and gesticulating wildly towards this group. One slipper came off, but he did not wait for it.

The two men are similar in that they are smart enough to recognize the potential threat and danger of small biological microbes to the world. They are both fascinated with the power of such a small organism.

"Once start him at the water supply, and before we could ring him in, and catch him again, he would have decimated the metropolis."

Unfortunately, the scientist is naive about it. He can imagine the destruction, but he can't fathom somebody actually wanting to do it.

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "The Stolen Bacillus," Wells contrasts the characters of the Bacteriologist and the Anarchist through their attitudes towards the bacteria in the laboratory. For the Bacteriologist, for instance, the cholera bacteria are dangerous and bring nothing but death and destruction to society:

Here he would take the husband from the wife, here the child from its mother, here the statesman from his duty, and here the toiler from his trouble. 

In contrast, the Anarchist views the cholera bacteria with wonder and amazement. When he first sees it, for example, his eyes are filled with "morbid pleasure" and there is a "gleam of satisfaction" in his face. 

While their characters seem very different, however, both men are keen to impress and "astonish" those around them. The Bacteriologist does this by pretending that his blue bacteria is, in fact, "bottled cholera" while the Anarchist concocts a plan to steal the cholera from the laboratory so that he can poison the city's water supply and achieve infamy.

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rmauschenfangs | Student

An anarchist is one who tries to cause anarchy, which is a state of disorganization that is caused by either no authority or a disdain for authority. In The Stolen Bacillus, the anarchist looks at the test tube of cholera as something that could give him power over people. He lists all of the horrible things that would happen if the cholera were to be released into the water supply. It wouldn't only affect the people who were alive at the time; it would also affect future generations.

The bacteriologist, on the other hand, realizes what kind of carnage would happen if the cholera were to be released into the water supply, but he keeps talking to the anarchist because he is the only one who is as excited about the cholera as he is. The bacteriologist appreciates being able to talk to someone besides his apathetic scientific colleagues.

The anarchist was not taken seriously by anyone. Therefore, he believed that releasing the cholera into the water supply would make him famous. It didn't matter that he would probably go to prison for his 15 minutes of fame.

Both men crave recognition. The anarchist is the only one who is willing to kill people in order to achieve that goal.