The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds Book Report
If you like Aliens and Science Fiction then you will enjoy H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds. I was referred to this book by my english teacher who said that this book would be popular for boys my age. I would agree with that. Older teens should read this because this book is science fiction that also contains lots of action, while also being very insightful to human nature. The Guardian says, it as a true classic that has pointed the way not just for science fiction writers, but for now we as a civilization might think of ourselves. I chose to read this because I enjoy science fiction, and action and adventure.
Wells, made visualizing the story easier by letting us the reader, see into the narrator’s thoughts and emotions. First when the aliens attack a town near the river, the narrator decides to jump in, but the aliens heat ray boils the river making the narrator scream in agony as every movement hurts painfully. The narrator screams and shouts sound horrible. This shows his emotions clearly no matter how bad they may be. When the narrator sees aliens drinking the humans blood he says, ‘But squeamish as I may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I could not endure even to continue watching. The bare idea of this no doubt sounds repulsive to us, but at the same time I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem 5o an intelligent rabbit. We now see humans in a different way because of the narrator’s thoughts. And how repulsive it was to see it. This tells is more about the aliens and ourselves, because he makes us think if the aliens see humans as simple animals or intelligent creatures. Towards the end when the narrator wants to end it all after all the suffering, he starts going insane and walks to the martians to save him the trouble of killing himself. The thoughts and emotions he shows us makes us feel sad for everything the narrator has gone through. Showing us his thoughts of suicide and his feelings to just end it all.
When writing this book H.G. Wells was very descriptive especially with characters like the aliens. At one point when the narrator first sees the aliens he says, “they looked like a big bulk the size of a bear with wet leathery skin. When I read this I was able to picture What the narrator was saying. This may not seem like much, but the narrator only saw a glimpse of the aliens, and for a glimpse that was a very descriptive one. Another description Wells gives us says, “This thing I saw how can I describe it a monstrous tripod, A walking engine of glittering metal, Machine it was with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible glittering tentacles. When I read this, I could see why the narrator was scared, I could picture this tripod clearly in my head. I find it interesting how the narrator describes it but im not complaining because I like the good descriptions. “They were huge round bodies or rather hears about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face, the martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell. But it had a pair of very large dark colored eyes, and just beneath this kind of fleshy beak. Finally when reading this I was able to better see the aliens after the glimpse the narrator had. I was able to see the aliens in full picture now thanks to the authors great description.
When Wells wrote this story he made sure to include irony to make the story better. Toward the beginning people see a falling star leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed for a few seconds. This is ironic since the falling star is something natural and beautiful but will be dangerous and ugly. Because turns out the falling star ends up being some ugly Alien in tripods trying to kill human. Afterwards when the cylinder opens and kills a bunch of people, the rest of the town keep going on normally as if nothing happened. Since we know the aliens have some to kill humans, humans should be preparing but they don’t. The most significant Irony was when the technologically advanced Martians were defeated by tiny basic bacteria. This sad and funny because the most basic form of life was able to defeat something so advanced. While the most advanced human weapons at the time did little to no effect on defeating the martians.
The War of the Worlds action filled Sci-fi plot, descriptive characters, fun irony, and vivid thoughts and emotions help write this amazing story. H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds is a great story. I would recommend this book to older teenagers, sci-fi lovers and anyone that loves alien invasions.
Comparing War of the Worlds and Prester John
The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author Herbert George Wells and published in 1897 and Prester John is an adventure novel written by John Buchan in 1910. H. G. Wells was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and many others. John Buchan is a Scottish novelist who began his political and diplomatic careers in southern Africa which made him start writing career. He often wrote various adventure fictions. John Buchan often wrote about southern Africa as a back ground. They both are very well-known writers. H. G. Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921, 1932, 1935, and 1946. Wells so influenced real exploration of Mars that an impact crater on the planet was named after him. Unlike H. G. Wells, John Buchan is not as influenced literacy with impact, but he was a novelist, historian, and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada. Buchan simultaneously began his writing career and hist political and diplomatic careers. He was a splendid man of unlimited resource and great intellectual capacity. These two prominent authors of The War of the Worlds and Prester John have distinguishable styles.
Firstly, their genre, setting, style and theme are very different. As previously stated, these two books genres are very different. One is science fiction genre and other is adventure genre. In the War of the World, mostly, it talks about Martians destroying the earth and the main characters surviving from the abyss. In the Prester John, main character is exploring southern Africa and about adventure that is happening while he is staying in Africa. Setting is also different. In the War of the World, it is around in 1900 and held on London. In the Prester John, it is held in around in mid twentieth century and held on Southern Africa. Because of these genre and setting are different, it makes the style of books different. In the War of the World, science fiction genre makes the style of the book more appalling. The main character of this book is surrounded by unbeatable Martians and crazy people that make the life of the main character miserable. Everything seems hopeless in this book. However, in the Prester John, it is not as severely bad as the War of the World. The main character in the Prester John also in a very poor condition, but there were always ways to get out. It shows hopes unlike the War of the World. Themes of these two books are differ from each other. In the War of the World, the main theme is to show the what is going to happen if other creatures from outside of the earth invade. It shows disasters that happened by monstrous creatures. However, it tells readers that there is going to be some sort of hope to go against these creatures. In the Prester John, the main theme is to talk about what is going on in southern Africa that the author actually experienced. These four components; genre, setting, style and theme are crucial that made authors famous.
Secondly, their representation of social class is different. A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories. In the War of the World, social class is not actually stated, but readers can anticipate that social class exist. Martians which has the most power is controlling the world. People have to live what Martians intended to. Human beings who have the power which is the Army are on the top of the social class besides Martians. Below that males and people who have weapons are existed and the rest of the human beings are on the bottom of social class. However, in the Prester John, social class does exist. Main character or white men are in the top of the social class. They have the actual control over the resources or humans. Others are in the bottom of the social class but among them, they have their own social class. A leader and fighters. For example, Laputa, the leader of the tribes, has the most power among their people and his followers do whatever Laputa tells them to do. Because both are in special condition, the War of the World and the Prester John have the social classes. If the War of the World has the different genre, and the Prester John is held on somewhere else, there might not be any social class.
Thirdly, their relationship to Darwinism is different. Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution developed by the English naturalist Charles Darwin. It means all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Unlike the Prester John, the War of the World is clearly stated the Darwinism. When the main character of the War of the World met the artillery man, the artillery man wants to accept only people who are in good condition. He is going to build a utopia for perfect human beings. This dream did not work out in the book but it surely mentioned about Darwinism that author actually believed in. The main character knew about the artillery man’s dream is lunatic which made the main character leave him behind. Unlike the War of the World, the Prester John does not state Darwinism at all. The Prester John is closer to Imperialism which is a state government, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. It is based on imperialism because of the historical era of that time. White men are ruling over the southern Africa and Africans are fighting against white men’s reign. Not only white men but also Africans also have imperialism. Leaders tell their people what to do. For example, Laputa is the leader of the tribes and tell people to fight against white men. They protest and do riots against the power. Because of these two, the War of the World and the Prester John are very different.
Finally, their treatment of the theme of science and belief, and civilization and barbarism are different. In the War of the World, it is more toward to science and belief. The genre itself is science fiction and talks about mostly something that does not exist in the real life. Everything is based on author’s imagination that might happen in future or that never happen. The belief that the War of the World has is the Darwinism. As it previously mentioned, H. G. Well believed in Darwinism. Well’s earliest specialized training was in biology which made him more believed in Darwinian context. Because of his belief, the War of the World and many other science fiction novels brought full impact of Darwin’s revolutionary botanical ideas to a wider public. This explained why H. G. Wells put the artillery man to notify what Darwinism is. The artillery man is a character that has same belief that the author has. Unlike the War of the World, civilization and barbarism exist in the Prester John. Civilization which express white men who staying in southern Africa and barbarism which express Africans who are fighting against the civilization are crucial in this book. Africans are going against the white men and fight for their freedom and their lands. It happens in real life too. Author wrote this book based on his experience in Africa. People cannot decide which is good. Civilization can be good or bad and barbarism also can be good or bad. The War of the World and the Prester John have the treatment of the theme that it actually believed in or what it has seen throughout their life.
In conclusion, the War of the World and the Prester John are very different but somewhat similar. The War of the World mostly talks about something that never happened in real life and the Prester John talks about something that actually happened and people are suffering from. Genre, setting, style and themes made these two books very different, but readers who read these books know that these are magnitudinous books. What H. G. Wells and John Buchan want to talk about is different subjects but both clearly stated what they want to say in their books which makes these two books very similar. Readers find out more about these books which socially impacted and impacting nowadays too. Because of these two authors, these two books crucially are concerned in English popular culture.
A Warning to Humanity in the War of the Worlds
Could you imagine a world where people are herded like cattle, branded, and then used for selfless, personal, gain? In addition, could you fathom those same less fortunate and subjugated people, not having the ability to fight back, despite their best intentions. In the brief history of the world, there have been mighty nations that have yielded this type of power to do such things. The United States, for example, (despite the good it has done for many) may come across to some other nations in the world as an empirical bully. With a superior economic might, strategic military, and advanced technology, those who are in opposition to America may in fact, find itself succumbing to the will of the United States. The mother of all of Western Civilization, the Roman Empire, laid its foundation on the backs of those it conquered for centuries. To further explore the notion that the novel does in circumstances, critique society as a whole, some may point to its destruction of one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen. William Scheick notes that, “The War of the Worlds has now emerged as a critique of British imperialism that also dramatizes a psychological battle within its narrator.” (Scheick, 1996). Therefore, history does provide specific examples of societies that appear to capitalize on the deficiencies of the less fortunate, but is it human nature to subconsciously revoke these notions of dominance to ensure an equal playing field for everyone? In H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds the author uses aliens to manifest the idea of that subconscious thought. H.G. Wells’ “The War of the World’s” echoes mankind’s inner plea for civility for the less fortunate. The novel symbolizes multiple aspects in our everyday lives by illustrating human beings’ susceptibility to be an inferior race. It also showcases man’s uneasiness to comply with laws one may find oppressive in nature. Lastly, H.G. Wells’ work allows for one to consider what could happen if an advanced society suddenly becomes overwhelmed by a superior foe.
Through the annals of the creation, countries have been born on the strength and the might of a great military. During World War II, the Axis Powers were defeated due to the allied forces superior military strength and strategy. In the text, H.G. Wells describes the alien invasion as having an advanced technology that was seemingly impossible to stop. In the text the narrator notes that “It was the first time I realized that the Martians might have any other purpose than destruction with defeated humanity.” (Wells p. 187) By suggesting it is the “first time” the narrator comes to the conclusion that the Martians may be more advanced than the human race. Up to that point, it may appear that the idea that humans could be conquered by any other species appears to be unheard of. Wells gives the reader a comparison by alluding to the Martians military capacity when equated to the humans. He states that “Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal. And shining with the growing light of the east, three of the metallic giants stood about the pit, their cowls rotating as though they were surveying the desolation they had made. (Wells 83). In order for the reader to even imagine the true devastation or force of something superior Wells emphasizes the words “never in the history of warfare” to further illustrate man’s feeble attempt to compete with the Martians. Furthermore, Downing also notes that, “The novel’s working-class commoners are repeatedly compared to frogs, bees, wasps, and the like, ineptly struggling for existence as the intellectually superior Martians implacably advance. (Downing, 2005). Wells again points out the power and the might of the Martians by comparing man’s most domineering technological advances to creatures as miniscule as frogs, bees, and wasps, but in doing so again reveals how vain the species of man had become with his accomplishments. Wells idealistic view of humanity is prevalent throughout the text. David Kelley seems to also allude that mankind’s hierarchy is ambivalent when compared to themselves or the other inhabitants of the planet.
During the Civil Rights Movement in America, countless people of all colors came together to resist the racist Jim Crow laws in the South. Despite discriminatory and unjust laws, unfair practices, and violent lynching’s, they still sought to fight against the plague of racism. However, in the scenes that play out throughout the story, all of mankind is tested in a way that challenges his very existence and not simply his color of skin. Wells’ fixation on allowing the reader to take into consideration the sheer annihilation of the human race is evident when he states, “Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human beings moved and suffered together. The legendary hosts of Goths and Huns, The War of the Worlds 166 of 293 hugest armies Asia has ever seen, would have been but a drop in that current.” (Wells p. 166). He notes that all people from each class were being subjugated to the same fate, death. Wells also makes the connection of people becoming dominated in this passage as he identifies with societies that have been defeated in war and becoming a part of a larger kingdom. “I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.” (Wells p. 232) By asserting that he was no longer a master “but an animal” he seems to show empathy for the people that have suffered long under the many empires throughout the Earth. This notion of empathy also is seen here when Wells writes, “Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has The War of the Worlds 241 of 293 taught us pity—pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.” (Wells p.241). In his critical essay on Wells’ The War of the Worlds, Antonio Sanna in his research titled, Are Human Beings Ultimately Ignorant? Huxleian Preoccupations in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds notes how H.G. Wells is troubled by the notion of mankind’s inability to reconcile with his neighbor. Sanna states that, “man’s confidence in his understanding of the external reality as well as in his capacity to subjugate nature and to evolve towards an improvement of the individual self and of society is questioned by Wells.” (Sanna, 2012). Lastly, H.G. Wells’ descriptive narrative serves as a subtle wake up to society as he describes how life would be if human beings were treated how they sometimes treat each other. The War of the Worlds portrays humankind’s panic at discovering it is not at the top of nature’s hierarchy (Alleva, 2005).
Throughout history great nations have been born out of the failings of the less fortunate. In doing so, some of the leaders of these nations have abused this power and have sought to oppress those who are not in compliance with the rule of law no matter how unjust it may be. Jason West suggests that Wells’ illustration of European oppression reflects a clearer view of how imperialism inflicts harm on those who are in opposition to it. West states that, “Even as the narrator criticizes imperialism’s colonial ambitions and its inevitable crimes, he reaffirms the hierarchical ranking of races and species that allows imperialists to destroy the populations that they consider inferior.” (Vest, J. 2005). This idea of inferiority is replayed over and over through time most notably in Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. He thought that the white race was superior than any other race and he used propaganda to strengthen his cause. However, during the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, he was proven wrong when Jesse Owens and other athletes were not only able to compete but defeat many of the German athletes that Hitler had considered to be dominant. Furthermore, in the novel, the author reminds the reader how civility should be taken into consideration with the humans becoming the more subjugated species when compared with the invaders. The invaders, Martians from outer space, seek to dominate the humans by killing them with a heat ray and poisonous black smoke. Crystal Downing notes in “Rime of the Ancient Martian” these unique observations. Downing states that, “Wells develops a novel about ‘natural selection,’ his narrator asserting that humans ‘are just in the beginning of the evolution that the Martians have worked out. (Downing, 2005). This further alludes to the fact that Wells’ assertion that mankind needs to hold a mirror to its face to somewhat hold himself accountable with regards to acknowledging others that may not be as strong as others. Wells’ worrisome empathetic view of humanity is displayed all throughout the text. However, in certain instances, one can see how problematic the issue is as he uses a morbid sense of reality to further entrench the reader in his assumptions. J.D. Beresford captures this analogy as when he describes these scenes. Beresford notes that, “The fighting machines of these incomprehensible entities, the heat ray and the black smoke, are all excellent conceptions; and the narrative is splendidly graphic. But only in the scenes with the curate, when the narrator is stirred to passionate anger, and in his later passages with the sapper, do we catch any glimpses of the novelist intrigued with the intimate affairs of humanity.” (Beresford, J. D., Vol.19). What Beresford could be suggesting is that man’s overwhelming desire to conquer could be his own undoing as he continually wages war with himself even in the darkest hours.
In conclusion, The War of the Worlds is a novel written to remind mankind to reflect on their misdoings and govern with compassion. Near the end of the novel, Wells indicates that man’s reflection in the mirror of humanity is not lost as the Martian invasion seems to provide a type of reckoning that could have been coming for some time throughout the history of man. The writer sums up this notion with this entry:
It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future, which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind. (Wells p. 290).
This conception of the commonweal of mankind is a clear indication that Wells’ ideals for civility amongst men is something that is necessary if the inhabitants of the planet are to coexist peacefully.
Wells’ ability to convince the reader to have a conscious about world events without actually grandstanding about the issue is important. He doesn’t force the reader to bend to his political view, instead he allows the reader to be the judge by use of neutral characters. Beresford notes that, “Mr. Wells is far more subtle and more effective. He takes an average individual, identifies him with the world as we know it, and then proceeds gradually to bring his marvel within the range of this individual’s apprehension.” (Beresford, J. D., Vol.19). In doing so, the reader is not forced to believe one thing or the other, instead he is able to consider the conditions and make a sound judgement on his or her own terms. Wells idealistic view of humanity is prevalent throughout the text. David Kelley seems to also allude that mankind’s hierarchy is ambivalent when compared to themselves or the other inhabitants of the planet. He notes that, “Wells seems to be saying, as he was to throughout his writings, that humanity is nothing but a cog in the greater machine of science.” (Kelley, 2005). Downplaying the importance of man’s role in society is a constant allusion we see time and time throughout the text. It also stresses Wells’ emphasis on having mankind remind itself that although it may be the top of the food chain, it still is a very important member of the planet and charged with taking care of the most important of all responsibilities.
What Martians and the British Have in Common in War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds
The years from 1871 to 1914 experienced boom of anti-imperialism literature. One such writer who used his power of words and wisdom – H.G. Wells devised a way to educate his readers on the dangers of imperialism and the threat of future war for the Earth due to the nature of humans. He used an interplanetary science fictional event to capture audience attention and by using such an event, makes it more believable because most people weren’t educated on the goings-on in space. The Martian invasion depicted in War of the Wolds is much like the imperialism in Wells’ time because both the British and the Martians used very violent and hostile treatment towards the conquered peoples and they both had reason for their invasions and dominations, mostly the resources and material gain offered.
One way that the Martians were similar to mankind in the form of British Imperialism would be the way that they treated the peoples they attempted to take over. The Martians landed on Earth with the intention of harvesting mankind for the resources that they desperately needed to continue their existence. For years and years they watched and calculated. “Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us” (Wells 1). They saw what they wanted and intended to take it, much like the British during the age of imperialism. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”(Wells 2). Much like this European immigrants, the Martians showed very little regard for mankind and saw us as little more than sustenance and a material to be exploited. One way that they assumed their dominance and took over so easily would be their advanced technologies. When humans are faced with a power greater than their own, they tend to submit and give in to their captures in hopes of not being destroyed by their instruments of anguish. The Martians came in tripods, planted thousands of years ago, which were more advanced than anything we had ever seen. “A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder” (Wells 25). Much like the British who possessed technologies far greater than their own when facing the indigenous peoples of whatever civilization they aspired to conquer. The Opium Wars 1842. The British deployed their advanced steamships against the Chinese who didn’t stand a chance with their outdated junk. The British got what they wanted every time which was usually for profit or power much similar to the Martians. When taking over areas where disease was a huge problem to natives, the British possessed cures and vaccinations which gave them yet another leg up in their quest for power (Saylor). As clearly stated one of the similarities between the fabled Martian invasion in the War of the Worlds devised by mister Wells, and the issues of British imperialism prevalent to the era, both the Martians and the British were very malevolent conquerors, caring little for the people or things that they crushed on their way to the top.
Another similarity between the Martians and the British would be that they felth their reasons for conquering were worth the lives of the people that they trampled to pursue their endeavors. “The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far indeed with our neighbor. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter.” (Wells 2) The Martians were faced with possible extinction and the death of their species. Why wouldn’t they regard our planet with “envious eyes?” This was the ultimate driving force behind their motives to invade and reclaim Earth for their own. “The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.” (Wells 2) The main motivation was out of necessity. The same may be said for the British if the need for power and to be one of the Earth’s leading superpowers of a country was a necessity which some believed it was. The British killed and destroyed for the resources that others had that they wanted. What better way than to kill and take it if you knew that you had more power and the means to frighten and intimidate countless people in your endless pursuit for power? As you can see, the British and the Martians also shared a common driving force behind their dubious intentions.
In conclusion, Wells uses a science fiction approach to both entertain and educate his readers about the dangers of a war of the worlds, or what would soon be known as “World Wars.” Wells foresaw the Earth plummeting into chaos and darkness due to ongoing war and violence. “Cities, nations, civilization, progress – it’s all over. That game’s up. We’re beat.” (Wells 88) The consequences of invasion and destruction far outweigh any gain. He uses War of the Worlds to show us about the imperialism that was going on and how it would feel if the tables were turned and we were nothing more than meat to be harvested by an even greater superpower. The Martian invasion was similar to British imperialism because both were malevolent to the inhabitants they sought to conquer, and they both had heavy motive for their invasion.
Media in the War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds Analysis
Media is one of the most powerful tools in American society. Nowadays, culture is dominated by several different types of media including television, magazines, and social media. In the past, radio and newspapers were media powerhouses. Working men would buy the papers on the way home from work and listen to the radio after dinner with their families. The papers were equivalent to the internet in that all the worlds stories were written for everyone to read. The radio was the main source of entertainment, providing dramas and performances for everyone to listen to. During a time when war was on the horizon, the War of the Worlds drama caused widespread panic. The War of the Worlds radio drama exemplifies just how influential and powerful the radio was in 1938.
After the first world war, the United States was gripped with fear of another World War. Many fathers and husbands had died fighting overseas. The Great Depression had wreaked its havoc on the nation, leaving many people in poverty. People had lost The American people were in low spirits. One of the few things that people still had to rely on was radio. After a hard day of work or school, the radio was always there to entertain them. Dramas and news played all evening for anyone to listen. The radio captivated the country in a time when the American people were in need of escape.
One of the most popular radio personalities at the time was Orson Welles. As well as working in theatre, Welles was a writer, actor, director, and producer in the radio industry at age twenty-three. He was a young, ambitious entrepreneur. His most ambitious and infamous work on the radio was his own adaptation of the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Welles took on this project by approaching it in a style that would completely envelop the listener. Unfortunately, Welles’ approach was far too effective.
When Welles adapted the story, he changed the story to make it more applicable to his audience. Instead of the story being set in Britain, Welles set the story in New Jersey and the tri-state area. The story was also formatted like a news broadcast so that the story would feel more realistic. Authors voiced reporters and civilians as if everything was happening live. To listeners, the world was being invaded by aliens and the the state of New Jersey was being completely destroyed.
During the beginning of the broadcast, another highly anticipated radio show was just finishing up. After the show was over, listeners tuned in to Welles’ drama on CBS radio. To their surprise, the United States was under attack. Every listener who was tuning in late had missed the announcement that informed people that the broadcast was just a drama. Those who heeded the words of Welles’ news correspondent had several different reactions. A few simply ignored what they heard. Some people assumed that the invaders were the Germans back to seek revenge. Others were completely captivated and were terrified that extra terrestrials were walking the earth. Many of those who were duped by the broadcast’s description of invaders headed for the hills. People packed up everything they had and drove to the country to hide from danger. People died in traffic accidents and were trampled in the streets. Welles’ broadcast cause widespread panic throughout the United States.
War of the Worlds was broadcasted at the perfect time to grasp the country’s nerves. After the first World War, the entire country was full of fear of an invasion by enemies the United States had made. Hitler was gaining power in Germany, promising the people a new, greater Germany. As far as most U.S. citizens were concerned, it was only a matter of time before Hitler went on the offensive. When the people heard Welles’ broadcast, they were already emotionally prepared for news of an invasion. Some people had already packed up and were just waiting for the queue to leave.
People had faith in the radio, which provided listeners with another reason to believe the nightmare they were hearing. To most listeners, the broadcast was a real news report. The same people who provided them with traffic reports and stock market updates were warning them of the impending doom. In context of the world of 1938, it was only logical to heed the news and flee from danger. This massive exodus from the metropolitan area caused most of the damage that the broadcast had set in motion.
Orson Welles orchestrated his broadcast of War of the Worlds with the perfect formula to convince people of its authenticity. Multiple factors contributed to the broadcasts “success”. The misunderstanding was created when listeners missed the beginning of the broadcast. To add to the confusion, the fact that war was on the mind of the people drastically influenced the population’s reaction. Dependence on the radio for live news also contributed to the spread of chaos. Of course when it was announced that the broadcast was a dramatization, the frightened citizens were furious. CBS officials blamed Welles for the incident in order to avoid unwanted attention. Welles later went on television to apologize for the confusion he had caused, but he was secretly pleased with the outcome of the broadcast. The incident created a large amount of publicity for Welles’ career. The radio industry saw that Welles could really create captivating dramas which would prove to provide opportunities for him in the future, both in radio and in film. The confusion that War of the Worlds caused forced the world of radio was changed forever. After the scare the nation endured, radio listeners were provoked to truly evaluate the influence of the radio.
The Fear in War of the Worlds Movie
The Fear in Movies
War of the Worlds is a 2005 science fiction disaster film directed by Steven Spielberg, an adaptation of H.G Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds. The film is about a divorced father named Raymond with little fatherhood skills and works as a crane operator on the docks of New Jersey. On a weekend, Ray’s ex-wife drops off his teenage son Robbie and 10 year old daughter Rachael for a visit, then a series of abnormal lightning bolts attack the town. As the lightning bolts hit the ground, they buried small capsules on the ground that happened to be Tripods that killed and destroyed everything in its path. Not only do the main characters experience aliens trying to take over the world, but also staying together as a family and not let anything stop them from getting to their destination. Much of the film referenced catastrophic events that happened previously in our real world. For example, those events include natural disasters, the September 11 attacks in New York City, and the sinking of the Titanic. Those events, among others, led to permanent societal fears that viewers experience when watching any horror or science fiction film.
As I was watching the film, I took into consideration the intense scenes that involved destruction and the fight for survival. The destruction scenes themselves were over-the-top, they seemed so real and I felt like I was actually there looking at all of the buildings crumble. However, that may not be the case for a number of people who experienced a strong earthquake in the past. As they watch those scenes, their brains may attack them with thoughts like “What if another earthquake happens” or “I hope I never get to experience that ever again.” It is a fear that they developed after they experienced a huge earthquake. Also, we all have this fear of fighting for survival. We all wonder what would we do, if let’s say, we have the last working car in town when everybody relies on walking. It would be very chaotic, we would have to be extra careful and watch out for those people who are willing to kill for a car. Ray experienced the same exact problem on the film, but unfortunately, he got the car taken away from him at gunpoint. He had a small gun, but it wasn’t enough to scare all of the people away, especially when some of them carry more powerful weapons such as shotguns.
During the era the film was made, the attacks on September 11, 2001 had occurred just four years ago. As a result, director Steven Spielberg included a lot of references to the tragic attacks. One reference the director included was when Ray got home completely covered in people’s ashes. Those ashes represent the people who came out of the World Trade Center injured, scared, and covered in ashes that the towers left behind. I cannot imagine the fear people felt when they saw that particular scene. Another reference to 9/11 was the airplane that crashed right next to his ex-wife’s house. On that scene, the images we saw were heart breaking and devastating because we came to think of the lives that were lost when the planes crashed into the towers. In our world, the planes were hijacked by terrorists, but in the movie, there might have been cases that the plane must’ve been hit by a laser of one of the Tripods. Either way, the results of both worlds ended up being very similar. Finally, the third reference to 9/11 that I saw on the film was the wall that was covered with posters of missing people. We can all relate to that scene because we all saw a huge number of reports indicating the missing people when the towers collapsed. We come to think of our friends and family members because it is a fear that we fear the most, which is losing the people we love and care for. Although there were more scenes referencing September 11, these were the ones that I felt were the most frightening.
War of the Worlds not only recalls images from the terrorist attacks, but also images from when the Titanic sank in 1912. In the film, Ray and his children got onboard a small ferryboat to escape the city. However, it was really crowded to the point where there were people who were hanging from the back part of the boat. As the boat sailed away from the dock, there was a Tripod underwater waiting to hunt more humans. Moments later, the Tripods rose from the ocean, tilting the boat to its side causing it to sink. Hundreds of people were struggling to swim away from the aliens as they captured people. Seeing the boat sink and people falling into the ocean made me think of the Titanic disaster, an event that took the lives of fifteen thousand people. As a result, some people in general became really afraid of going on a cruise, because they won’t stop thinking about Titanic. It’s amazing how such events that happened one hundred years ago still affects society in many ways. It’s hard to forget, especially when films reenact those unfortunate events.
In conclusion, we currently live in a world full of new fears that we didn’t have before these events happened. Although movies are meant to be a form of entertainment, we can’t forget the fact that there are a lot of movies that help us remember those fears. Steven Spielberg’s film War of the Worlds had many references to real world tragedies that reflected societal fears and anxieties. As the movie was playing, I began to feel the fears that people went through because of all of the tragedies that has taken place over the course of history. From natural disasters, to ships sinking, all the way to the attacks on September 11, has had an effect on how people see science fiction and horror films, because they think back to those days when they see a disturbing scene.
Understanding Aliens from H.G Wells’ Perspective As Depicted In His Novel, War Of the Worlds
There are plenty of pop culture icons that can be described as “extraterrestrial invaders;” however, there aren’t many in literature. Coincidentally enough, however, one of the first mentions of extraterrestrial invaders comes from literature: the Martians from H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel War of the Worlds. These horrifyingly ugly creatures roam the Earth in giant “fighting machines,” or as they are more commonly called tripods, and ravage all forms of life they encounter. Despite their obvious non-human appearance and power, they still suffer from the same pitfalls that humanity, and life in its entirety, suffer from.
H.G. Well’s Martians first appear in War of the Worlds during the first chapter, after a “meteor” falls to Earth and lands on Horsell Common, in Woking, Surrey. The mysterious nature of this “meteor” is further magnified by what it does next: it opens to reveal several Martians, who the narrator describes as “big and greyish, with oily brown skin,” “two large colored eyes,” a beak-like “V-shaped mouth,” and “Gorgon groups of tentacles.” Despite the thorough description of the Martians appearance, one still finds it hard to actually picture them. This presents the first strength of the Martian invaders: their supreme, God-like invincibility.
The Martians are regarded to by Wells as “minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, [with] intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic.” Wells seeks to portray these Martians as God-like, giving them infinite strength and a lack of value for other forms of life; as a result, the Martians are made out to be invincible. For example, when the military surrounded the Hornell Commons in an attempt to contain the Martians, the military was armed with Maxim guns, which were considered to be the most advanced weapons ever constructed (this was the first automatic weapon, which looked much like a Gatling gun). Wells emphasizes the presence of these weapons because, when placed in historical context, the reader in 1897 would fully comprehend the awesome might of the Martian invaders.
In addition, the Martians roam the Earth in colossal “fighting machines,” also known as tripods, which were armed with advanced weaponry: specifically, the heat ray and a black-smoke chemical weapon. These machines could be eliminated, but in one of the only instances within the novel which this occurred, it took three warships with massive power in order to do so. While in modern times it doesn’t seem like these tripods would be very effective, when reading this piece through the glasses of someone from 1897, this is a massive show of the devastating power of these machines.
The second strength of the Martians is their inherent lack of moral compass. While on the surface this would seem like a weakness, particularly from the eyes of a human, in all reality it makes the Martians ideal invaders; because the Martians have no moral compass, they have no qualms with wiping out the human race in their quest for domination. In addition, because they have no moral compass, they have no need to be rational or fair. There is no such thing as diplomacy for the Martians in the quest for Earth; either humans learn to live under them or they attempt to rebel, either of which gets them killed. It made a rather effective antagonist for War of the Worlds.
Unfortunately for the Martians, their weaknesses are one in the same as humanity’s. One such example is morality; while being portrayed as God-like and invincible, the Martian invaders can still be killed by the same means as people. Those who managed to finish War of the Worlds know that, in the end, it was bacterial infection that finally killed the Martians. The simplest of all of God’s creations, the common cold, destroyed the most advanced race of extraterrestrial beings in a major fit of irony.
The final weakness of the Martian invaders is the pivotal part of Wells’ purpose in writing War of the Worlds: greed, the greatest vice of man.This greed is not a result of a need to survive, but a want for wealth. It is implied (and other versions of Wells’ story directly state it) that the Martians have come to Earth in order to drain it of all of its resources. Wells mentions, within the first page of The War of the Worlds, that the Martians ”regarded this earth with envious eyes.” Clearly Mars is a wasteland, so it is no surprise that the Martians were envious of Earth. The Martians may very well have drained Mars of its resources before looking elsewhere to quench their thirst for wealth.
The importance of this is simple: the Martians, in their entirety, is an extended metaphor for British Imperialism and the British war machine. The elements of the novel add perfectly to equal it: the Martians see themselves as God like, and therefore have no value for life; the Martians seek to enslave the humans; the Martians must feed upon the humans in order to survive, just like the war machine needs innocent lives in the form of soldiers in order to continue; and the Martians moved like a swarm of locusts to rob the Earth of its resources, much like what the British Empire did to India and Africa. This type of metaphor was common during the era, which contained a massive amount of invasion literature; however, it was never done as well in other pieces as it was in War of the Worlds.
Despite the strengths and weaknesses of the Martians, I personally would still like to actually speak with one of them, given the opportunity, because I admire their power, despite their human-like weaknesses. It is a mystery whether or not the Martians’ motives were derived from greed, jealousy (the typical vices of humanity), or a simple hatred for humanity because Wells never expounded upon them within the novel. As a result, Wells has created an interesting and ambiguous antagonist that embodies fear, God-like superiority, and malice, all placed within an unfeeling and cold-blooded package.
Depictions of Danger in Frankenstein and The War of the Worlds
Both The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley are novels that introduce dangers in the form of an ‘enemy’ – the details of which enemy are largely unknown by the reader. Wells and Shelley, though dealing with enemies in different forms (one a single monster, another a squadron, one man-made and the other beyond man’s comprehension), both present the threat of this enemy in regards to tension and suspense. Whilst reading about this ‘enemy’, the reader is made to feel anxious by use of ominous retrospect in the narrative and the gradual reveal of the monster at hand. Both monsters are introduced slowly and seemingly unthreateningly, but these details combined with the ominous foreshadowing in the narrative develops the idea that there is a threat at hand. The reader is offered little or gradual information about the enemy and as a result, both writers create tension surrounding what is unknown – making the reader feel the threat of danger in a visceral way, as though the reality of each narrative was their own.
Both authors use ominous foreshadowing to indicate to the reader that there is a constant threat – but a threat that the reader knows little about just yet. Use of retrospect is integral to the narratives, in making the reader conscious that worse is to come from each event they are introduced to. For Shelley, use of prolepsis is integral to communicating the constant threat that the monster poses in his story. When we first meet Victor, he is described as “dreadfully emaciated by fatigue and suffering” – seeming that he is not only physically distraught but has also endured extreme emotional strain. Readers subsequently wonder what the reason behind this “fatigue” could be, as Victor begins to warn Walton that his destruction is the result of scientific endeavor. He comments on how Walton seeks “for knowledge and wisdom” as he “once did” and proceeds to ask that the captain listen to his own story in the hopes that he will learn from his mistakes. The use of the adverb “once” not only informs us of his previous (i.e. no longer) pursuit for knowledge but implies a kind of remorse. It suggests that Victor “once” sought out wisdom and endeavored to be a great scientist, but his experience with such scientific development has lead him to consider it a thing of his past. Shelley’s use of prolepsis here links his previous scientific activity to his present broken state. Another example is when he returned to his home shortly after the ‘birth’ of the creature, expressing that he “did not conceive [at that time]” what “anguish” he was “destined to endure” as a result of creating the monster. For Frankenstein’s readers, Victor’s employment of galvanism and current scientific theories would be recognizable to them, and spark curiosity about where science might advance us as a society. Yet hearing him speak with finality about his pursuit for “knowledge and wisdom” (he “once” sought it) sheds a negative light onto what scientific endeavor could actually cause. We are reminded consistently, through this use of prolepsis, that his contribution to science did not lead to success and grandeur but to him becoming this “man on the brink of destruction”. Victor is himself, then, evidence that for the threat of danger in his life, his story – the constant threat of the monster and the death that he brings.
In The War of the Worlds, retrospect is contrasted with the narrator’s feelings during the early stages of the invasion. Evidence of the narrator’s confidence during these stages is seen when he reassures his wife that “the Martians were tied to the pit by sheer heaviness, and at the utmost could but crawl a little out of it”. The adjectives present illuminate how empathically confident the narrator was with this false knowledge – that the enemy was held by “sheer heaviness” and could only move “a little”. The phrase “at the utmost”, too, is a kind of colloquialism that is overly reassuring – demonstrating the level of confidence the narrator had in feeling they were safe. Retrospect changes his confidence into foreboding. When hearing about the army’s advances on the Martians, he expressed that “It hardly seemed a fair fight to me at that time”. By adding “at that time” to the end of this expression is an immediate juxtaposition of his opinion after the events, against his complacent confidence then (representative of most Victorians during the peak of the British Empire) and his sympathy towards the Martians. Ironically, the fight is nowhere close to being a “fair” one in the end – in subtly adding “at that time” to his comment the narrator alludes to the threat of destruction which looms in the future. Not only this, but the reader is curious and anxious about why the situation may be less than a “fair fight”. Particularly since this was published at a time where people were easily unnerved by the potential realities literature presented (consider how people reacted when The Battle of Dorking was published, and the necessity that the government reassured the public), Wells’ elusive review of the invasion from the future would undoubtedly have left his readers uneasy. As a result, both narratives create tension by subtle moments of ominous retrospect that indicate a constant sense of threat in the future, from which both narrators are reflecting on the events. Use of contemporary fears or curiosity in scientific development or the possibility of invasion are woven into both novels and enhance the sense of threat already created by prolepsis and foreshadowing.
In a similar way, both Shelley and Wells draw out the reveal of each ‘enemy’ in so gradual a way that creates suspense – such a suspense that leaves the reader feeling threatened but with sparse information about what the threat actually is. This gradual introduction of the enemy is most poignant in The War of the Worlds, when the Martians are slowly and painfully revealed to the narrator. Not only do the cylinders arrive one by one over the course of several weeks, but the first description of a Martian is drawn out and embroidered with visceral adverbs. He describes it as “A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear” that was “rising slowly and painfully”. Not only do the adverbs “slowly” and “painfully” draw out the movement of the Martian in such a way that generates suspense, but the narrator also demonstrates uncertainty when trying to describe it – “the size, perhaps, of a bear”. The word “perhaps” indicates a guess – he can only guess at what size this Martian is, due to how “slowly” it is being revealed. There is little information gathered about the Martian, leaving the reader curious to understand the specifics of what is being observed. Later the narrator describes how the Martian regarded him “steadfastly” and “heaved and pulsated convulsively”. Again, these adverbs sound painful and suggest that the Martian is struggling. For which reason, the narrator felt it was “hardly” a “fair fight” when he first met them – an inference which is later proved completely wrong. Given that the novel was first published as a serial in a newspaper, tension was key to communicating this sense of threat – and so Wells could achieve this by drip-feeding information about the enemy, a being whose appearance was almost incomprehensible to a contemporary audience.
In contrast, the revelation of the monster in Frankenstein is not so slow and gradual but rather evidencing he is harmless and weak. Victor describes how one of the monster’s hands “stretched out” and that he made “inarticulate sounds”. The verb “stretched” implies reaching, not able to access what he is trying to get to (in this case, his father). Describing his attempts at speaking as “inarticulate sounds” demonstrates his incapability to communicate – he does not know anything about language yet, being so new into the world. Though Victor talks about him in a gruesome manner, commenting that when the monster reaches out it is “seemingly to detain [him]”, the monster does not seem to be an actual, aggressive threat at this point – but merely ugly, stumbling into life like the Martian struggled out of their cylinder. This weakness found in the monster’s early moments communicates Shelley’s beliefs in the innate good of children/humans before their experience of society, yet from Victor’s biased and disgusted, retrospective narrative the reader similarly comes to expect evil of this creature. Hence, the descriptions provided by Wells and Shelley in their narratives – though different in the way that they introduce the monsters – develop tension about how each monster will divulge and grow to become the ‘enemy’ the retrospective narrator believes them to be.
The keys to both Shelley’s and Wells’ presentation of the threat of danger, then, seem to be tension and suspense. The anticipation surrounding the monsters’ next movements, particularly evident in The War of the Worlds as a serial publication, is necessary to draw upon contemporary fears and beliefs of science or invasion theory which serve to embellish the sense of threat the two writers develop. If there weren’t tension, suspense and unanswered questions in the narrative when describing the monsters in primary stages or moments of ominous retrospect, the reader would not be free to interpret the text with their own contemporary knowledge (and latent fears). Hence, the two writers present the threat of danger by developing tension, which fuels the building curiosity and unease in the reader.
The War of the Worlds: A Critique of Imperialism
With the close of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th, much of the world was changing. In particular, world literature was shifting from the ideals of Romanticism to the stark realism of novels written after the Great War. At the beginning of this shift lies the novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. It is a unique work in that it can be considered an example of both literary themes present during the 1890s, Romanticism and realism. In the words of Wells himself, it is a “scientific romance” combining aspects of both. While it uses the Martian invasion of Earth as an extended metaphor to critique imperialism in fine Romantic form, its approach is very realistic through its use of verisimilitude, telling of the fictional invasion as an actual event that occurred in the recent past. It is the use of this literary technique that lets The War of the Worlds stand out amidst novels with similar themes but rather more conventional premises, such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Considering the subject matter, the opinions and knowledge of the general public at the time, and the prevailing literary ideas, it was crucial to establish credibility early on. Otherwise, the novel would have been easily dismissed as either too fanciful or too confusing, and its emotional impact would have been greatly reduced. In the novel, Wells provides a base for the use of verisimilitude by writing in the first-person, in the past tense, and from the point of view of a participant writing his memoirs about an event in the near past, all of which contribute to giving the audience a sense of looking back on something that has already occurred. This is crucial, as the audience can better relate to a highly improbable yet historical event, rather than a similar event which only might occur in the future. Wells supports this base through a description of the Martian investigation of man and introduces a comparison to imperialism by immediately laying out that “as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied [like how] a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures… in a drop of water” and that men were furthermore “serene in their assurance of their empire over matter” (3). Incidentally, the use of verisimilitude in The War of the Worlds has the side effect of making the novel more direct (since it is ideally coming across as the narrator’s memoirs) and thus more palatable to the average reader. Rather than needing an extended introduction which could range for chapters and potentially discourage the audience, the novel can instead introduce the most pertinent details necessary to create the background plot and make the transition to the main plot in only a few pages. It is an unorthodox beginning, but it does wonders for convincing the audience that the novel has intellectual merit beyond the basic story and is not just another foolish fantasy to be discarded. As the plot progresses into the narrator’s account of what actually happened, Wells continues to build on the base established in the opening pages to incorporate verisimilitude further into the novel. First, he uses accurate scientific facts to describe Mars and the Martian journey to Earth. He reminds the audience of the vast stellar distances involved (140,000,000 miles), which at the time was hardly common knowledge. For the average reader, this evokes a sense of awe at the abilities of the Martians to traverse such a distance. Then, he leads into a discussion of why the Martians wished to come to Earth in the first place in order to clear up much of the ambiguity as to why such dissimilar creatures (as the reader later learns) would want to go to the trouble of doing so. At this point, the theme of critiquing imperialism comes out strongly, as the narrator addresses the audience directly: “And before we judge them too harshly we must remember what… destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals,… but upon its inferior races,” referring to the Tasmanians that were wiped out by British settlers (5). By comparing the Martians to British imperialists, Wells shows the readers how they, through the British Empire, have mistreated much of the developing world. As for the reader, seeing the similarity between seemingly inhuman monsters and themselves is startling. Wells also draws on his own reality to provide proper names for the people and places in the novel. The narrator states that the Martian preparations were spotted by several real-life astronomers like Perrotin of Nice, Lavelle of Java, and Oglivy, a famous British observer. He even spends the night with Oglivy at his Ottershaw observatory, where they observe the first cylinder’s launch. However, regardless of what this could mean to them, the populace remains unconcerned, as evidenced by Punch satirizing the “volcanoes upon Mars” for the political cartoon (8-9). Wells then places the landing site of the first cylinder as Horsell Common, which was an open area near his home and the home of the novel’s narrator. Wells could have easily placed the setting in a foreign or fictional country, but placing it in Great Britain makes it all the more pressing; reading about somewhere far away being devastated is one thing, but reading about your own town and surrounding towns being devastated is quite another. A common method of distancing oneself from a traumatic event that has occurred to others is to assert that it won’t happen here. Placing the novel in Great Britain prevents the audience from resorting to that method and forces them to confront their fears and apprehensions, both about the fictional Martians and the real effects on the world of British imperialism. Again, most of Wells’s efforts to make The War of the Worlds read like a factual real-life account have to come at the beginning to establish credibility, but that does not mean he can forget the rest of the novel. Throughout the rest of the story, Wells uses several contrasts in the British people’s reactions to the Martian invasion to further support the theme. For example, the narrator describes how, after the Heat Ray was first used, he encounters a group of people who have only heard about it, but not actually seen its deadly effects. One asks, “People seem fair silly about the common. What’s it all abart?” and when given an answer replies that she has heard “Quite enough, thenks” (33). The group scorns the narrator as exaggerating the crisis, which incidentally was the reaction of most people when confronted by the effects of imperialism. They dismissed it as something they didn’t need to worry about, as they have only heard about it, rather than seen it directly. However, when the Martians finally emerge in their iconic tripods, the people change their minds without even a small demonstration of the Heat Ray, as shown by the response at Shepperton and Weybridge shortly thereafter. A similar response is described by the narrator’s brother in London, as the “people in their best clothes seemed scarcely affected by the strange intelligence [of the Martians]” until the Martians arrive, whereupon “the whole population of the great six-million city [poured] en masse northward” (87, 91). Some are even driven to insanity, like the curate that the narrator meets. Shaken by the destruction of Weybridge, the curate slowly goes mad during his time with the narrator, and, once trapped in the destroyed house by the Martian pit, succumbs quickly. He becomes so insensible that he eventually claims, “I must bear my witness!” and rushes to the Martians (156). Fortunately, the narrator escapes by knocking out the curate and hiding in the house’s scullery. These examples work to convey to the reader what it feels like to be the victims of a more powerful entity, which is also how the inhabitants of several British colonies feel, albeit to a lesser degree. While the novel eventually does resolve on the high note of the Martians’ demise, the audience cannot forget how their collective actions towards colonial peoples can be reflected in the fictional Martian actions towards the audience and must confront themselves over what has happened, both in the novel and in reality. Essentially, The War of the Worlds uses verisimilitude in order to combine a thrilling story and an exposition upon the moral dangers of imperialism. Wells could very easily have written two novels that each do half of what the The War of the Worlds does, but the overall emotional effect on the story and the reader would be compromised. A thrilling yet superficial story would excite the reader but accomplish nothing substantial, while an exposé on imperialism would accomplish something substantial, but would be so dull as to end up in a library somewhere, a sort of “call to arms” that no one would hear. When combined, the story may not be as thrilling and the exposé may not be as exposing, but people will read it, and the world will be that much richer for it.
Horror and Reality: The Artilleryman’s Contribution to the Novel
During Book Two, Chapter Seven of The War of the Worlds, we are reminded of the artilleryman’s eccentric character. In short, his role is as an object of satire: he voices opinions for Wells to criticise. Nonetheless, the artilleryman does more than this; he gives a horrifying image of how humans will evolve, which can be applied to the real world that Wells was actually writing about.
The artilleryman shows one view Wells is against in his manner of thinking. He is very much obsessed with possession, as evidenced by his bold claim, ‘this is my country.’ This kind of parochial view is exactly what Wells is trying to eliminate through writing this book. Wells uses this phrase to bring colonial thoughts to the reader’s mind, but ensures we still view these ‘navy-crowded seas’ in a negative light through the narrator’s disinterested response. He seems unenthusiastic and gives the artilleryman short answers, even though the artilleryman speaks incessantly, sometimes for entire paragraphs. The artilleryman then continues by telling the narrator that ‘there is only food for one’, which emphasizes his selfishness.
However, as previously mentioned, the artilleryman is more than just an object of satire. He also holds some views which the narrator completely agrees with. One example of this is his contempt for the deeply class-ridden Victorian society. He says ‘if you’ve got any drawing room manners, or dislike eating peas with a knife… you better chuck ‘em away. They ain’t no further use.’ He has made it perfectly clear: classes and drawing-room manners won’t be needed in a post-apocalyptic world. This view is one that Wells agrees with because it suggests that these classes, if not needed in The War of the Worlds, are not needed in the real world either. Wells goes so far to emphasize the narrator and the artilleryman sharing common ground that he even has the artilleryman use the narrator’s ant analogy from Book One.
Much of this has probably been put in place to give the reader a good reason for why the narrator accepted the artilleryman’s ideas in the first place, and then helped him in the task of building a redundant tunnel. The narrator accepts the artilleryman’s insane philosophy at first because they do have so much in common. The artilleryman gives the horrifying image of humans as some sort of cattle for the Martians, living in ‘roomy cages’ with ‘fattening food’, except for a strong race of men and women who will live freely beyond Martian rule. The artilleryman includes himself and the narrator in this group, which clearly appeals to the narrator’s vanity, and so he decides to help the artilleryman.
It is important to note here that we cannot assume Wells’ beliefs are identical to the narrator’s. We know in several instances they differ greatly, for example the narrator prays to God believing He will take action to change the world, but Wells’ beliefs about God (from God the Invisible King) are that ‘God does not guide our feet’ and He will not do anything to change the natural course of nature. The narrator’s selfishness in accepting the artilleryman’s views is another example of when Wells’ views differ from the narrator’s, because, as an egalitarian, Wells would not have believed it right for some people to life as cattle whilst other were living in freedom.
Wells shows his disapproval of this by allowing the narrator to become disillusioned, through the artilleryman’s laziness and inability to complete a task. He tells the narrator: ‘Oh, one can’t always work.’ This is the exact moment that the narrator says he ‘saw the man plain’, which proves it is the artilleryman’s lazy character that gives him away. It gives him away as being insane, which is in no way unknown to the reader. Of course, if the man is thought of as insane, no reader will listen to his ideas because society thinks of insanity as something that makes you think in the wrong way, and is good cause for locking you up away from everyone else. Hence Wells has exposed the artilleryman’s views as incorrect.
One final idea the artilleryman contributes to the novel is the criticism he puts forward of human nature. He says the human race deserves their fate under the Martians because people have led their lives in fear rather than freedom, which has made them easy prey; he also raises Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest. Ultimately, the artilleryman indicates that the ones who survive will be the ones who are prepared to reject society’s values. This scenario shows Wells’ dislike of society’s values in his own time, such as the inequality of the class system. Wells isn’t only arguing that the class system is wrong, but that we won’t be able to survive unless we eliminate it.