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The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells
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The Croquet Player (original 1936; edition 2013)

by H. G. Wells (Author)

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2198124,178 (3.56)8
Something is horribly wrong in the remote English village of Cainsmarsh. An elderly woman stiffens in dread at her own shadow; a terrified farmer murders a scarecrow; food prepared by others is eyed with suspicion; family pets are bludgeoned to death; loving couples are devoured by rage and violence. A spirit-corrupting evil pervades the land, infesting the minds of those who call Cainsmarsh home. Is this vision real, or a paranoid fantasy generated by an even darker, worldwide threat? And is the call to resist the danger itself a danger? These are questions that disturb the calm of an indolent croquet player who happens to hear the tale of the unlucky village. nbsp; H. G. Wells’s ambiguous story of horror is a modern classic, a prophetic, disturbing glimpse of the primitive distrust and violence that gnaw at the heart of the modern world.… (more)
Member:davidrudy
Title:The Croquet Player
Authors:H. G. Wells (Author)
Info:Literary Licensing, LLC (2013), 100 pages
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The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells (1936)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Very much riffing on Edgar Allen Poe, and reading like an episode of Outer Limits (but without the resolution), the story is best at the expression of fear as a town comes under the cloud of . . . something. ( )
  lisahistory | Nov 17, 2021 |
Wow oh wow! I love Wells' ideas, characters, and writing and this short story was no exception. Amazing framing and pacing. A great commentary on the speculative more widely and how we respond to the maddening sadness of society.
  booms | Jan 27, 2021 |
A man, who lives with his aunt and spends most of his time playing croquet, meets a doctor at a resort who tells him a strange story about the goings on in the marshland he lives in. It's hard to know what to make of this story. It starts out as if Wells is channeling H.P. Lovecraft, with weird tales of buried evilness, although Wells' language is hardly as baroque as Lovecraft's. Then it sort of loses steam as it takes on the complexities of modern life - a bit of a foretaste of Toffler's Future Shock, actually. You have to take into account that Wells was writing it in 1936, of course, to understand the inherent warning he is trying, rather confusedly, to convey. In the end, it doesn't really work, I'm afraid. ( )
  datrappert | Jul 10, 2013 |
My reaction to reading this story in 1996. Spoilers follow.

This story can be considered as a ghost story or as an allegory about one of Wells’ main themes: the conquering of the brutish “cave man … who is in us”.

The ghost story is not very effective. Wells, unlike some of his short stories, doesn’t do a very good job of creating an atmosphere here. The supposed haunting of Cainsmarsh doesn’t seem that threatening or oppressive. The alternate reading – and the one Wells very likely intended – is that the ancient skull unearthed in Cainsmarsh is not haunting the land but, as the psychologist Dr. Norbert says, is an allegory for man’s bestial nature breaking down civilization (indeed, civilization is pronounced a delusion.). The world is no longer “safe for anything.” This pessimism is quite understandable for a European after World War I. Wells possibly saw World War Two coming.

As is usual for Wells, the book ends on a note of pleading for a new order: “a harder, stronger civilization.” Norbert pleads with the narrator – an upper class croquet player (devoting large chunks of time playing sports is satirized in Wells’ A Modern Utopia and Men Like Gods) to forsake his animal nature and become “a stern devotee to that true civilization, that disciplined civilization” that needs to be created. There is something almost Lovecraftian in the notion of this impending doom driving “intellectual men” insane – including delusions of haunting.

The narrator, one of Wells more engaging characters though obviously the subject of ironic attack, will have none of it. Norbert, to him, seems insane like Peter the Herbert, Savonarola, or John Knox, an apocalyptic preacher of “wrath to come”. The narrator concedes Norbert’s gloomy description of the world is true but doesn’t see what “our sort of people” (I suspect wells meant everyone, not just society’s elite) could do about it, how they could think up a new world. Wells prescribes no specifics for his “true civilization”. On second thought maybe Wells did mean to specifically castigate the elite who presumably have the most power and time to bring about a new order. Given his own life and his narrator, I doubt Wells ever regarded the upper class as inherently smarter.

In a delightfully wry ending, the narrator says: “I don’t care. The world may be going to pieces. The Stone Age may be returning. This may, as you say, be the sunset of civilization. I’m sorry, but I can’t help it this morning. I have other engagements. … I am going to play croquet with my aunt at half-past twelve today." ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Jun 11, 2013 |
uncharacteristically dull & hackneyed. ( )
  hermannstone | Dec 7, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. G. Wellsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Line, CliftonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Something is horribly wrong in the remote English village of Cainsmarsh. An elderly woman stiffens in dread at her own shadow; a terrified farmer murders a scarecrow; food prepared by others is eyed with suspicion; family pets are bludgeoned to death; loving couples are devoured by rage and violence. A spirit-corrupting evil pervades the land, infesting the minds of those who call Cainsmarsh home. Is this vision real, or a paranoid fantasy generated by an even darker, worldwide threat? And is the call to resist the danger itself a danger? These are questions that disturb the calm of an indolent croquet player who happens to hear the tale of the unlucky village. nbsp; H. G. Wells’s ambiguous story of horror is a modern classic, a prophetic, disturbing glimpse of the primitive distrust and violence that gnaw at the heart of the modern world.

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