H.G. Wells wrote “The Stolen Bacillus.” This curious tale, therefore, is placed among some of Wells’s most celebrated scientific romances. Indeed, “The Stolen Bacillus” is itself a tale about a scientist that begins in somber tones and has a quickly developed plot suggesting the possibility of a terrifying threat to humankind. However, the bizarre twist with which the tale ends makes it less interesting as a work of thriller fiction than as an almost perfect example of the use of bathos in literature.
The Stolen Bacillus: Summary
The Bacteriologist has a visitor to his laboratory, a pale stranger who arrives with a letter of introduction from a good friend of the scientist. The scientist shows his visitor the cholera bacillus under a microscope, and they talk about the disease. The visitor is particularly interested in a vial containing living bacteria, and the scientist describes the power of cholera, saying what a terrible epidemic could be caused if a tube such as the one he holds were to be opened into the water supply. The scientist’s wife calls him away for a moment; when the scientist returns, the visitor is ready to leave. However, as soon as the visitor has gone, the scientist realizes the vial of bacteria is missing and that the visitor must have stolen it. He runs out in a panic, sees the visitor’s cab leaving, and hails another cab to give chase. The scientist’s wife, horrified by his inappropriate dress and hurry, follows in a third cab, with her husband’s shoes and coat and hat. We shift to the point of view of the visitor in his cab. He has indeed stolen the vial. He is an Anarchist who plans to release the bacteria into London’s water supply. His motivation is fame: he feels the world has neglected him, and now he will reveal his power and importance. In the speeding cab, however, he accidentally breaks the glass vial. He decides to become a human vector. He swallows what is left in the vial and stops the cab, realizing that he no longer needs to flee. When the scientist catches up and confronts him, the Anarchist gleefully announces what he has done. The scientist allows him to walk away and tells his wife that the man has ingested the stolen bacteria. There is a twist: the vial, it turns out, did not contain cholera, but a strange new microbe the Bacteriologist had been studying, the only known effect of which is to make the skin of the animals exposed to it turn bright blue. The Bacteriologist reluctantly puts on his coat and returns home with his wife, complaining that he will now have to culture the bacillus all over again.
The Stolen Bacillus: Character Sketch
The Anarchist is one of the main characters in Wells’ story “The Stolen Bacillus.” From Wells’ characterization, we see that the Anarchist is a deceitful person. He uses deception to gain access to the laboratory, for example, by forging a “letter of introduction.” the Anarchist is also very proud of himself and his achievements. This is evident after he steals the bacillus and is musing on his plan.
The Stolen Bacillus: Theme
While many people may consider it as a science-fiction short story, it is not. It is actually satire. A satirical story about the potential role of scientists in facilitating bio-terrorism: the bacteriologist, though he is a genius scientist, has been ignorant about the motivations of people like the anarchist. However, later it turns out that he was boastfully dishonest. The story also adds elements of humor as the bacteriologist seems to be mocking the anarchist for his foolish act in the end. The reason why many people consider it a science-fiction story- because of the other stories writer HG Wells had written.
The Stolen Bacillus: Solved Questions
1.How is humor employed by H.G. Wells to make ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ a piece of delightful reading?
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