The change of scale, however, so long as it was changing, presents in another metaphor the old contrasts. The young giants, the Cossars and Redwood, looking down on common humanity from a vantage-point some thirty to forty feet higher than the “little people,” are critical by force of circumstances; and they are at the same time handicapped by an inability to comprehend the thing criticised. They are too differentiated; and for the purpose of the fable none of them is gifted with the power to study these insects with the sympathy of a Henri Fabre. We may find some quality of blundering stupidity in the Cossars and in young Redwood, they were too prejudiced by their physical scale; but the simple Caddles, born of peasant parents, uneducated and set to work in a chalk quarry, is the true enquirer. He walked up to London to solve his problem, and his fundamental question: “What’s it all for?” remained unanswered. The “little people” could not exchange ideas with him, and he never met his brother giants. It is, however, exceedingly doubtful whether they could have offered him any satisfactory explanation of the purpose of the universe. Their only ambition seemed to be reconstruction on a larger scale.
I think the partial failure of The Food of the Gods to furnish any ethical satisfaction is due to the fact that in this romance Mr Wells has identified himself too closely with the giants; a fault that indicates a slight departure from normality. The inevitable contrast between great and little lacks a sympathy and appreciation we find elsewhere. “Endless conflict. Endless misunderstanding. All life is that. Great and little cannot understand one another” is the true text of the book; and it implies a weakness in the great not less than in the little; a weakness that is hardly exonerated by the closing sentence: “But in every child born of man lurks some seed of greatness—waiting for the food.” I find a quality of reasonableness in the little people’s antagonism to the blundering superiority of those giants.