Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books, Bikes, and Freedom

I've mentioned how the bicycle liberated women and, just as importantly, terrified men. The freedom engendered by the bike offer women a way out. It also, so the medical profession insisted, turned them into lesbians because of the friction of the seat and women's unmentionables.  The other day, I returned to this site and discovered that it now offers all manner of versions of the various texts it hosts. I found there this H.G. Wells story, which concerns a draper's assistant, a run away half orphan and several different kinds of bicycle.

What's interesting is that in this story it's not just that bikes promote women's freedom but also that it breaks down class barriers and shows how a low-born assistant draper is both better than a well-born intellectual. Crucially, I think, the assistant draper realizes that he's screwed and the brief taste of social equality he enjoyed is unlikely to transform his miserable existence and, in fact, the whole episode, viewed from the Hoopdriver's perspective, achieves nothing but the realization of actual existing misery.

So in this case the bike frees Hoopdriver from a form of false consciousness, lets call it, that he cultivated especially to avoid the actual existing misery of his life.

Odd little morality tale.

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