The Food of the Gods Author:H.G Wells Ever the visionary, H.G. Wells here presents the reader with a study of the classic conflict between Science and Man. I could never really figure out where Wells stands on this issue in these pages, and perhaps he sits on the fence, providing convincing arguments on both sides of the struggle. Interestingly, the book begins with a number of biti... more »ng, satirical remarks about science and scientists; they are called men of "obvious littlenesses" who cannot see outside the bounds of the narrow world they live in; their "greatness" only inspires dislike among their peers and translates not at all to the masses. I was in fact rather shocked to see Wells characterize men of science in such a forcible way. In terms of the story, two scientists discover the recipe for a growth agent which they see as a great benefit for the future life of man on earth--food sources can be grown in exceedingly abundant numbers, thus providing for the welfare of all men. They set out to experiment by purchasing a small farm and feeding the new food, spontaneously dubbed Food of the Gods, to a number of hens. Unfortunately, the pair hired to see after the farm are quite inefficient, and the food finds it way to a number of unfortunate locations. Huge wasps appear to terrify the local community; the hens eventually escape and run amuck, gigantic creeping plants begin to take over various areas of land, and then gigantic rats torment the local population. The farm and its creations are forcibly cleaned up, but the story by no means ends there.
The two scientists continue work on the food with the intent of controlling its use, but a neighboring doctor forces his way into their lives and launches a public campaign for their product. This, plus the fact that the food continues to find its way to different places (with the resulting consequences of huge new pests and pestilences) contributes to a growing public reaction against the food, a movement that will eventually place a "giant-killer" in political control of the country. Meanwhile, for reasons I never really understood, the sons of the scientists (as well as a few more children) are given the food and eventually grow in excess of forty feet tall. The story actually becomes quite powerful when describing the lives of these young giants. While some are totally isolated and, for a time, "controlled," others actually attempt to do things for the "pygmies," such as building houses, creating reservoirs, generating electrical power. In every case they are chastised by the people, who complain about property rights, zoning laws, and other things that the giants simply don't understand. The giants look at the population and see homelessness, perpetual drunkenness, poverty, and other social ills, and they want to help; sadly, every attempt to serve is met with more consternation and increased restraints on their movements. Eventually, the anti-giants league takes power and sets out to rid their world of the giants through either exile or war. Their first victim is a poor young giant who tired of the perpetual work he was compelled to perform and set out to see the life he had been hidden from. He cannot understand humanity at all, and his questions about normal life are ignored; his end is tragic and frankly a sad indictment on mankind. The novel does not end very satisfactorily--the lines have been drawn, but the ultimate outcome of the struggle is left unanswered. To have continued the story would have required Wells to take a stand on the issue, and I don't think he was confident enough in his own opinions to do so.
The novel begins in an almost humorous tone but ends quite seriously and tragically. Both sides of the scientific argument are given a full say in matters, and the great tragedy is that no one wins in this story. The most innocent victims are the giants themselves; they alone seem to recognize society's ills and make an effort to improve the lives of their fellow men despite the harsh treatment they receive for their effort« less