The First Men in the Moon Critical Essays

H. G. Wells


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The lunar voyage draws on a theme as old as The True History (transcribed second century c.e.) of Lucian of Samosata, who lived in the second century. The use of a fantastic journey for the purpose of satirizing contemporary society echoes Jonathan Swift’s Gullivers Travels (1726). The First Men in the Moon is distinguished not so much by originality as by its vivid and imaginative writing, its mixing of comic and serious elements, and its pessimistic vision of a dystopian society.

The highly ordered society of the Selenites is a system without individual freedoms and rights. The insectlike form of the lunar beings emphasizes this and gives them a monstrous quality. Bedford fights against the system, but for his own selfish reasons: He wants to steal gold and come back for more later. Cavor is a detached scientist who is fascinated by what he sees but is prepared only to observe, not to participate. The Selenites are called “citizens” but are in reality completely conditioned from birth to perform their preassigned tasks in the machine. This is a nightmarish vision of economic conditions in a developed capitalist system. Bedford typifies the acquisitive capitalist, who is egotistical and irresponsible in his pursuit of gain. On the Moon, he can literally throw his weight around. His plan to annex the Moon and harvest its resources is a satirical jab at imperialist exploitation of vulnerable...

(The entire section is 440 words.)