The Man Who Could Work Miracles

by H. G. Wells

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Why did everyone forget Fotheringays' miracles in H. G. Wells' "The Man Who Could Work Miracles"?

Quick answer:

In Wells’s "The Man Who Could Work Miracles," everyone is unaware of Fotheringay's miracles because they actually had not yet occurred. Fotheringay’s successful wish to be returned to the time before he could do miracles means that the miracles he caused are still in the future. The characters cannot be considered to forget events that were actually still in the future.

Expert Answers

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In H. G. Wells’s story, Fotheringay realizes that—contrary to his deeply held beliefs—he has the power to accomplish miracles. Throughout the course of the story, he further realizes that this gift is a mixed blessing. In his first efforts to use the power wisely, he makes some innocent and relatively harmless blunders. The inadvertent effects of making miracles makes him rethink the wisdom of using the power at all. While he still commands the ability to generate miracles, he uses it to return him to his prior state—before he knew that he possessed this gift.

Wells ends the story at the point when Fotheringay’s wish is granted and he returns to that earlier time. The narrator does not tell the reader what the next incident will be. Wells implies, however, that the process that Fotheringay sets in motion will inevitably keep working. The sequence of events that began with Fotheringay gaining awareness of his power is going to repeat itself. (This premise is basically the same as the one featured in the 1993 film Groundhog Day.)

The other characters in Wells’s story do not know that they have been—or are about to be—affected by Fotheringay’s actions. Once Fotheringay’s miraculous return to an earlier point takes effect, that means that none of the subsequent events have yet occurred. All of the other characters whom Fotheringay had affected with his actions are now untouched. Although Fotheringay wished not to have the power, it is likely that he will once again realize he has it, and the other characters will suffer the same consequences as his actions are repeated.

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