Other Free Encyclopedias » Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern Fiction » Encyclopedia of Literature: John Hersey Biography to Honest Man's Revenge

History of Mr Polly, The

The History of Mr Polly, you can change it

life social

a novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1910. The story of a small shopkeeper who rebels against his station in life, The History of Mr Polly is a unique mixture of social realism, romance, and vivacious and exuberant comedy. Alfred Polly is the archetypal Wellsian ‘little man’, an oppressed, frustrated, and highly imaginative individual who can find no outlet for his dreams and desires until he sets fire to his shop, fails to execute a carefully planned suicide attempt, and disappears to take up the life of a tramp. ‘If the world does not please you, you can change it’ is Wells's optimistic message. The experiences of lower-middle-class life that drive Polly to spiritual imprisonment and despair, and his adventures on the road once he has obtained his release, are portrayed with a combination of scathing social insight and Dickensian jauntiness. Polly's gift of romanticizing the drabbest and most mundane circumstances is displayed through his habit of creative malapropism and linguistic deformation, a technique in which Wells sometimes seems to anticipate Joyce. Formally, however, this is one of the most traditional of Wells's novels, reflecting his impatience with the self-conscious craft of his more modernist contemporaries and his affection for the narrative freedoms of the eighteenth century. The book begins with Polly's chronic indigestion, with the rumblings in his stomach being viewed as a form of industrial unrest or internal civil war; leaving political symbolism behind, it ends with the hero's digestion restored after his victory in a mock-epic battle for the Potwell Inn, a homely, rural English version of the earthly paradise.

History of the World in 10½; Chapters, A [next]

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or