The Neutral Nature of the Aeropile
In 1945, in order to prevent further causalities of war, Albert Einstein invented the nuclear bomb, which ended the World War II immediately by destroying millions of innocent lives in Japan. In his interview, Einstein remarked, “inventing the nuclear bomb is the biggest failure of my life” (History Channel). Seemingly, technology could be associated with an evil nature. H.G. Wells, a nineteenth century writer, would disagree with the notion that technology can have an evil nature. In 1899, fourteen years before the invention of airplane, H.G. Wells presents his futuristic vision of a flying machine, which he names the “aeropile,” in his novel, When the Sleeper Wakes. In the imagined society in his novel, flying represents a variety of power, including the power to control, and the power to escape from being controlled. In When the Sleeper Wakes, a novel that depicts Graham’s journey from a miserable man who suffers from insomnia to the legal ruler of the world after his unexplained trance for two hundreds and three years, Wells presents various functions of the aeropile, from motivation to manipulation, to represent the neutral nature of flying. Thus, the nature of flying, like many types of technology, is solely determined by the one who uses it. Wells’ view on the nature of flying can be illustrated in three dimensions: Graham's first flight, Ostrog's manipulation of people with the flying power, and Graham’s use of flying power to “fight for the world” in the ending (174). First, the experience of flight liberates Graham, proving that the aeropile can shift personality. Awaking after two hundred and three years of trance, Graham’s mind is dualistic. On the one hand, he is overwhelmed by his new duties, which he believes are associated with “danger and responsibility” (89). On the other hand, he is excited about his role and eager to make positive changes for the people. At this point, Graham is still feeling insecure in his power, shown clearly when Ostrog convinces him that he is the master of the world, he responds, “And I. – Is it indeed that I?”(88).(good movement?) In particular, Graham shows a deep interest in the aeropile, the most advanced flying technology in the new world and goes on a flight. This flight gives Graham the energy and joy he had never experienced: “His exhilaration increased rapidly, became a sort of intoxication” (122). The word “exhilaration” has a connotation of “a cheering or enlivening influence” (OED), but this feeling becomes “intoxication,” “the poisoning of the moral or mental faculties” (OED), suggesting that this state of excitement is, in fact, poisoning Graham’s mind, because the exhilaration is blinding his judgment. The excitement of the flight makes Graham oblivious to what Ostrog is doing. He is blinded by the pleasure as the new “ruler,” neglecting the fact that Ostrog, the real ruler with power, only sees Graham as a “prisoner,” a new figurehead (168). However, the flight does, in fact, liberate Graham and gives him the confidence he needs as a ruler. The other definition of the word “intoxication”, “the action or power of exhilarating or highly exciting the mind; elation or excitement beyond the bounds of sobriety” (OED), is very similar to the word “exhilaration”. The double use of words meaning both a mental state of excitement, with the latter a stronger version of the former, perhaps suggests Graham’s thirst for power. In his society, flying symbolizes power and is only reserved for the privileged class. Perhaps, Graham’s pleasure in flying suggests that he enjoys and is eager to reaffirm his privilege, or power, as the ruler of the world. In other words, his exhilaration is partly derived from his joy at feeling the power he has. Before the flight, Graham is drowned by the anxiety and confusion of his new identity, as illustrated in his remark, “I know nothing” (115). The flying experience liberates him with the...
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