H.G Wells’ View of the Alien Attack As Illustrated In His Book, War of the Worlds
The trope of the martian invasion pioneered into the world of Science Fiction back in the 1800s with Herbert George Wells at the head. The War of the Worlds tells the horrific story of a man who survives a deadly invasion on earth, witnessing the destruction of society as he knows it. When the Martians first land on Earth, the humans underestimate the powers of these crude looking creatures. The civilians are at first intrigued by the alien artifacts sent down to earth, and once it becomes clear that the aliens are not coming in peace, many still cling to the idea that human strength would overpower the primitive aliens. The novel follows the drastic downfall of humanity in a short span of time, and once the earth inhabitants are able to come to terms with their own weaknesses, the Martians have already gained a formidable upper hand. Many manners and styles of ego come into play throughout the story, and all are vital for the staggering control which the Martians obtained. In the end, man is brought down not just by the strange visitors but by himself.
At the start of the novel, a ‘meteor’ falls from the sky near the narrator’s home, and he discovers along with other civilians the strange cylinder. The human inhabitants of the town he dwells in are taken aback by what they call ‘a falling star’, however there is not a hint of fear among them, simply an excited curiosity. “There were four or five boys, sitting on the edge of the pit, with their feet dangling, and amusing themselves- until I stopped them- by throwing stones at the giant mass.” (H. G. Wells 272) The bystanders see no reason to fear this strange meteorite, and even go to the extent of playing with it like a toy. New occurrences such as this in the twenty first century are often met with fear due to the knowledge of what could unfold. However it does not occur to the inhabitants of this town that they would be unprepared for the events to follow. They have complete confidence in their military and scientific accomplishments, so much so that they do not even feel the need to reach out for help. When this amount of confidence is engrained in a person’s mind, it is not a conscious choice to feel secure. Instead it is automatic. The ego of man’s accomplishments creates an instantaneous lack of fear of the martian cylinders. Thus, no action is taken and the people are unprepared for what unfolds.
As the day goes on, the strange cylinder opens and the Martians reveal themselves. The protagonist is as stunned as his neighbors, yet it is not a fear of danger, it is the fear of the unknown. The fear disappears as suddenly as it came for the Martians are so different than the human idea of danger. To us, a threat is a human like creature with advancements or mutations, such as a vampire, a werewolf, or another monster of that nature which clearly resembles a person. However the Martians are shown as something else entirely. The narrator describes,
“A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder……. Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva.” (Wells 276)
The Martians are quite unlike any humans, and thus while there is momentary fear, it is of what is different, not of a threat. The onlookers of the Martians do not exclaim out of fear, yet instead insult the aliens’ appearances, one stating, “ ‘What ugly brutes…..Good God! What ugly brutes!’ ” (Wells 277) This response is due to the alarming differences between the Martians and humans. Even the narrator remains unafraid and perhaps pities the aliens, hoping, for the sake of science and discovery, that these aliens will not be destroyed by soldiers before someone gets the chance to study them. As such an advanced society in their own eyes, the humans do not feel threatened by what they simply deem as blobs. This narcissistic reaction urges humans to approach the Martians without the proper equipment and sparks a violent conflict.
A group of civilians is sent to make contact with the Martians, unarmed and unprepared. They approach confidently to assess the aliens, ‘boldly’ as described in the text, sure of their own control over the situation. It is then that the Martians’ true power is revealed. The attack is described, “It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned into fire… I stood staring, not as yet realizing that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd.” (Wells 278) The invisible heat ray which the Martians use to obliterate crowds of people is a type of technology which the narrator and the surrounding people had never before witnessed, and it is in this moment that they are stripped bare of the egotistical ideals that man is more advanced than other civilizations. It is a horrifying moment, and the narrator’s describes his emotional turmoil as, “Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came- fear… The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror.” (H. G. Wells 279). The humans came to the conflict unprepared due to their narcissistic instincts, and by then it is too late to protect themselves. The novel simply progress into more dramatic destruction as it progresses, with a brutal fall of society.
H. G. Wells illustrates a blinding human weakness, that of man’s ego. The confidence mankind has in our technology, military, and overall success as a civilization blocks out the possibility of more advanced life forms which could pose a threat. In The War of The Worlds, the Martians are considerably stronger in many aspects, yet a full fledged attack or instant migration could have delayed the attack against humanity as the aliens died out after a short period of time from sickness. Due to the underestimation of strength unable for them to imagine, mankind set themselves up for failure.
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The trope of the martian invasion pioneered into the world of Science Fiction back in the 1800s with Herbert George Wells at the head. The War of the Worlds tells […]