A Vision of Judgment, H. G. Wells: Summary, Analysis & Themes

‘A Vision of Judgment’ was first published in Butterfly in September 1899. This tale by H. G. Wells is a light-hearted and humorous take on the Day of Judgment, where all humankind, including the dead, are summoned before God to be judged for their deeds.


  • The story is divided into nine brief parts, beginning with the sound of the Last Trump, signaling the arrival of the Day of Judgment.
  • The first-person narrator, who is dead and buried, realizes that the time has come for all of humankind to appear before God.
  • Notable figures such as Charles Darwin and Henry the Eighth are among those summoned.
  • Each person is called in turn to confess their sins before God.
  • A Wicked Man, identified as King Ahab, openly confesses his many crimes and appears proud of them, but becomes a subject of ridicule when some of his more embarrassing transgressions are revealed.
  • Even those who were victims of the Wicked Man laugh at his pathetic nature.
  • The exact nature of one particularly embarrassing transgression is left unspecified, allowing readers to imagine the worst.
  • The Wicked Man begs for mercy, attempting to escape God's grasp but ultimately failing.
  • A Saint follows, boasting about the extreme measures he took to prove his devotion to God, much to the Recording Angel's annoyance.
  • After everyone has given an account of their life, God drops them from His palm and down His sleeve.
  • They are then shaken out onto a beautiful land on a new planet orbiting the star Sirius, given clean, new bodies, and instructed by God to "try again."
  • Analysis

  • The story blends religious, eschatological themes with science fiction elements, particularly the concept of a new planet orbiting Sirius.
  • The narrative acts as a satire on human folly rather than a critique of religion itself.
  • King Ahab, a ‘Wicked Man,’ is reduced to a figure of ridicule, illustrating how even the most fearsome tyrants can be seen as foolish.
  • The Saint is also mocked for his pride in his self-inflicted suffering, highlighting the sin of pride even among the pious.
  • Wells’s portrayal of God is one of infinite mercy, offering a second chance to everyone, regardless of their past deeds.
  • The story suggests that folly and even evil are ultimately ridiculous, not deserving of severe punishment.
  • Major Themes

    Theme Details
    Judgment and Mercy The story depicts God's infinite mercy, offering all souls a second chance on a new planet, regardless of their sins.
    Human Folly The narrative satirizes human weaknesses and foolishness, from tyrants to self-righteous saints, showing that all are equally deserving of mockery.
    Satire and Humor Wells uses humor and satire to critique human nature and the absurdity of taking oneself too seriously, whether in wickedness or piety.
    Science Fiction Elements The inclusion of a new planet orbiting Sirius blends religious themes with science fiction, illustrating Wells's unique narrative style.
    Redemption The story's conclusion, where all souls are given new bodies and a fresh start, emphasizes the theme of redemption and the possibility of improvement.

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