Where Home is Hell: Grapholects of the Apocalypse

In literature, the use of dialect, or its written form, grapholect, is primarily used to represent how someone speaks, conveying where characters come from, while also playing into negative stereotypical socio-linguistic biases. This article will consider “A Story of the Days to Come” (1899) by H. G. Wells, and Riddley Walker (1980) by Russell Hoban, written nearly one hundred years apart but similarly utilising British working-class dialects to graphically convey their degraded post-apocalyptic wastelands. Read in relation to Freud’s The Uncanny (1919), and discussions about veiling and unveiling in Jane Marie Todd’s “The Veiled Woman in Freud’s ‘Das Unheimliche’” (1986), I contend this persistent linguistic device is more than simply a trope to illustrate the futuristic ‘homes’ in which their stories are set, but rather that the use of grapholects, used in opposition to, or instead of, standard English, lifts the veil to an unhomely (unheimlich) knowledge; that the use of our home languages excises us from civil society, resulting in such homes becoming hellish wastelands and our voices the waste itself. Wells chooses to discard and bury these once-familiar languages within standard English, returning his characters, and readers, to civilisation; whereas, in Hoban, primitive first languages return to the reader like revenants in an estranged, disfigured form, and endure. Both methods invite the reader to consider again what this apocalypse of language reveals about the nature of class and society, and themselves within it.

Read Where Home is Hell: Grapholects of the Apocalypse