H G Wells’s novel When the Sleeper Wakes was serialised in The Graphic between 1898 and 1903, and rewritten in 1910 as The Sleeper Awakes. A dystopian novel, it tells the story of a man who falls asleep in the year 1897, and wakes up 203 years later to find that the accumulated interest on his bank deposit has left him the richest man in the world and nominally its owner. However, far from giving him real power, this leaves him a pawn in the hands of fighting factions.
The novel proposes that whatever is done officially for the good of society, individual ambition is unlikely to address the failure of capitalist structures to create a good standard of living for those whose work supports the system.
Why did H G Wells rewrite the novel?
In the preface to The Sleeper Awakes (1910) Wells wrote: ‘Like most of my earlier work, it was written under considerable pressure; there are marks of haste not only in the writing of the latter part, but in the very construction of the story.’
- Article by:
- Marcus Waithe
- Visions of the future
The nature of the ideal society has occupied philosophers and writers for millennia. Here Dr Marcus Waithe considers how Victorian writers such as H G Wells, William Morris and Edward Bulwer-Lytton re-imagined their own society and envisaged utopian futures.