The Analysis Of The War Of The Worlds And 1984

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Literature has seen some of the most tyrannical characters of all time. The exploration of “totalitarian mindsets has been examined since the writing of Shakespeare’s powerful villains. Subsequently, both H.G Well’s “The War of the Worlds” and George Orwell’s “1984” present the influences power can inflict. Both novels showcase society’s de-evolution. Whether it be through Winston’s agonising torture or manifestation of Wells’ narrator’s appearance, both Orwell and Wells convey how an enforced physical and psychological transformation can corrupt the principles of humanity. However, while Wells’ Martian invasion is portrayed as a one-dimensional approach, the Ingsoc Party strategies are multifaceted. Ultimately, influences of power leave society in fragments in both novels.

In The War of the Worlds, the Martians’ irrepressible power propels humanity into a physical metamorphosis. We are exposed to this through Wells’ separation of the novel into two clear-cut sections. The first section, “The Coming of the Martians” supplies the suspense, whereby humanity is still somewhat dominant, clinging onto remaining sanity under arrival of the Martians, however this all changes in “The Earth Under the Martians.” By this point, mankind has de-evolved in sense with the Martians reigning over them. Wells’ choice of a two-part narrative emphasises the power divide from one section to another, displaying how rapidly, in contrast to the standard three-part Victorian novel, humanity can be corrupted when their power and authority on Earth is threatened.

We are introduced to a decline in civilization when the artilleryman and the narrator reunite. The artilleryman explains that to survive the invasion, he “crawled up a drain, connotating zoomorphic imagery. The verb “crawled,” presents an animalistic side to humanity when forced into inferiority. This reverse Darwinism would have unsettled Victorian readers, it was almost inexplicable to turn against religion in society. Wells, famous for dominating fin de siècle literature subverted the boundaries of typical Victorian writing by examining science within his works instead of the popular gothic genre. The release of Darwin’s 1859 “The Origin of Species” changed this widespread view. Its discussion of the survival of the fittest theory created a state of turmoil within Victorian England as religion was being legitimately challenged for the first time. Once Wells had been exposed to Darwinism, he converted from Christianity to becoming an active Darwinist. In his youth Wells stated that he had a “crude conception of evolution and as time proceeded, he became fully persuaded of its “truth. Wells perhaps incorporates his atheist views and Darwinian theory by creating an overriding sense of de-evolution within the novel. Wells was not the first Victorian writer to utilise Darwin’s theories. A common theme in fin de siècle gothic literature was Darwinism, much like in Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Stevenson incorporates Hyde’s “ape-like fury to test some of the major ideas in Victorian England. Like Wells’ choice of “crawled,” Stevenson’s comparing of Hyde to an “ape” exposes how mankind reverts to its old ways when threatened physically. In The War of the Worlds, mankind is stripped of all essentials, with Wells’ narrator clasping onto mere scraps of food, “hard and mouldy, but quite eatable, revealing the war-like conditions the Martians have constructed. The Martians force humanity to become “complicit in their crimes by utterly abducting human intellect, leaving what is left of mankind as savage animals and as villainous as the Martians. Humanity is left to fight over food and water in a classic Darwinian fashion, losing sense of human compassion. The power the Martians now hold over all of humanity reaches its climax here, breaking down all social construct within mankind.

Like The War of the Worlds, physical change in man is also prevalent in Orwell’s 1984. Winston Smith acts as a prime embodiment of the suppression the Party holds over those who matter to it. Before Winston first meets with Julia, he is described as “etiolated, foreshadowing his doomed end due to his betrayal of Big Brother’s principles. The adjective “etiolated” implies that due to Winston’s deceit, he will inevitably become feeble and lose colour, resembling a dying leaf. Over time, there have been differing views on the quantum theory of George Berkeley’s, relating to natural instances occurring within a forest. He argues that a tree would make a sound due to God’s omnipresence. This clearly resembles the power Big Brother has over Winston and Julia, because even though the pair attempt to escape the Party’s propaganda, they are ultimately fated to a doomed end. 

Like Winston, power influences the narrator in The War of the Worlds physically. The narrator undergoes phenotypical changes after the final invasion by the Martians as identified by the Artilleryman when he observes “his hair is grey, reflecting the physical exhaustion humanity feels due to the Martians invasion. A present-day reader can clearly sense the desperation crying out from humanity due to Martian attack. Man-kind is no longer able to control even personal qualities like their physical appearance. The narrator’s “grey” hair relates to Winston’s “scalp” and “etiolated” appearance, depicting a loss of human intellect as we are also exposed to the behavioural changes taking place within mankind under mass invasion. Both Wells and Orwell focus on how physical metamorphosis, brought upon by unworthy rulers, can leave members of society in pieces.

As well as physical, psychological manipulation is exceedingly induced by Orwell’s Thought Police, resembling the undercover Police Stalin made use of in his trials in the 1930s. These Police, working under Stalin’s power, torture enemies withstanding the dictatorship, much like Orwell’s Thought Police. Winston confesses to disloyalty of The Party while being tortured, resulting in him transforming into what is perceived by the Party as “a bag of filth. He stands as the last man resisting the oppression of The Party. O’Brien commands him to face himself in the mirror post-torture, only for Winston to be staring back at a “grey coloured skeleton showcasing the human spirit left in fragments. Orwell’s use of the colour grey is vital, potentially symbolising the disintegration of Winston’s wisdom. Orwell wrote the novel in the third person which is crucial at this point. If his torture were to be written in first person, the reader would not be able to visualise Winston’s change in the eye of the Party. Instead, the third person voice ensures a strong perception of his changed appearance and remaining sanity. After resisting the force for so long, Winston writes on the pub table “2+2=5 in dust, displaying how the Party’s power has affected psychological intellect as well as physical appearance. The fact he writes this in “dust” illustrates how Winston and the rest of the Party have been utterly brainwashed into conforming with Big Brother’s idealised mould of humanity. The “dust” potentially symbolises the literal foreshadowing of Winston’s death, however for now he is dead inside, with forced restraint of all emotion including love. This haunting thought lingers upon the reader, demonstrating the corruptness of the Party; its power can destroy anyone or anything. 

Human physicality is a reoccurring theme for the proles. The Party see the proles as “natural inferiors due to their poor backgrounds, leaving them to degrade through their own insanity. Athough having 85% of Oceania’s population, ultimately the proles were viewed as hopeless, having no influence on the government. Unlike Winston and the rest of the Party, the proles were not consumed by inescapable power – they lived in a world where sexuality was expressed, and divorce was permitted. Although sex with prostitutes was forbidden in the Party, Winston writes in his diary about his last encounter with a woman. In contrast to women in the Party, her face appeared “painted very thick,  with “bright red lips, which appealed greatly to Winston, perhaps because makeup and perfume were forbidden under Party rule. The prole’s face emphasises this sexual freedom that the proles have, something Winston could never obtain. The 1984-film released in 1984 and directed by Michael Radford demonstrates this scene in a different light. Although the proletarian woman appears to be covered in make up at first, when Winston becomes closer up to her, her face is full of wrinkles. Arguably this characterises how the Party see Proles as dirty, worthless beings, and this is what the director conveys to the audience. However, it is almost ironic that these women are wearing makeup to begin with, as unlike the Party, the proles are the lasting population not providing a false image of humanity. From this we can understand the force power can have over its citizens causes people to lose touch with humanity’s true social principles.

Wells firmly held onto social principles in his writing and because of this, was one of the most influential left-wing writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century. He uses the Martians to represent a form of dictatorship, imposed by the British Empire. Wells presents the Martian invasion as ruthless. Even when the narrator and Artilleryman go into hiding, “broken crockery littered the floor accentuating how the Martians even choose to destroy the smallest, most insignificant items in society to gain power. The “broken crockery” acts as a metaphor for a double perspective, relaying how the Martians view humans as “crockery,” symbolising the fragility of mankind due to the superiority the Martians now have. The fact that the crockery is “broken” could highlight the inevitable breakdown of society and stripping of its surroundings during the Martians dictatorship. Wells uses this to hint at brutality of events like the Black War, dating from the mid 1820s to 1830s. The battle took place between British Colonists and the Aboriginal Australians in Tasmania. The Brits, obviously at a technological advantage due to their vast empire, eventually colonised Tasmania after battle. Wells uses this in The War of The Worlds, but instead reverses roles by casting the Martians as the privileged Europeans and the rest of London as the deficient Aboriginals. A reverse in societal roles displays how all hope of a just power system is lost when under unruly totalitarian control. 

Social construct of Oceanic society is discussed in Goldstein’s, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Goldstein addresses how society has always had a “High,” “Middle,” and “Low, through all of recorded history. Orwell projects ideas about socialism following travelling to Spain in 1937 to fight against Franco and his Nazi-supported fascists. Whilst there, he learnt the difference between real and false anti-fascism after witnessing a socialist revolution. In 1938 Orwell published Homage to Catalonia, where he recounted his experiences during the Spanish civil war. He discussed how “there are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten then not to fight at all, demonstrating how hard the Spanish had to fight in order to gain basic human rights. The Antifa movement in America focuses on forming an anti-fascist group whereby rights in the USA are equal. We see this present-day notion being attacked through Goldstein’s book, through his sorting of people into distinct groups of power rather than a socialist society the Antifa group strives for. 1984 was originally banned from the USA because of its explicit attack of political themes and was believed to be pro-communism. As the USA has stereotypically been a right-wing country, this is no surprise to modern readers. Orwell and Wells both contradict this notion in their novels by instead focusing on the surrendering of humanity, through the loss of resistance in Winston and the victory of evolution over humanity in The War of the Worlds. Although attempting to fight power through the novel, both Winston and the narrator eventually concede defeat. Though contrastingly, humanity is seen to take a much more holistic approach to defeat in The War of the Worlds, whereas Winston is presented to be the only member of society who attempted to resist the Party’s oppression for so long. Ultimately, In keeping with Marxist views, they are both too ignorant of totalitarian rule to be able to start a revolution. They instead “dance with their jailer in order to avoid social destruction. 

Influencers of power have strived to succeed without fault. Joseph Stalin himself protested that “history shows that there are no invincible armies suggesting all forms of leadership inevitably have an Achilles heel. The Martians, for example, face their power struggle through nature, with bacteria authenticating evolution and remaining just as indestructible, even if humanity faces their downfall beforehand. Moreover, the Martians clearly corrupt civilisation in a severe behavioural and physical manner, therefore achieving their aim of destroying humanity’s common sense. Conversely, contrasting to Stalin’s words, the Ingsoc Party’s Achille’s heel is yet to be found. They succeed in manipulating everything making up society, from physical appearance to freedom of thought. doing so, leaving Winston and the rest of society in psychological fragments. Both Wells and Orwell play on the idea of psychological and physical complicity in totalitarian crimes to reflect previous dictatorial manipulation in recorded history. In the end, although rulers prove to show a prodigious lack of human virtue, humanity does in fact, become complicit in their unworthy ruler’s crimes when given no choice but to give in to this destructive totalitarianism. 


Primary sources

  • Wells, H.G, The War of the Worlds (London: Collins Classics: 2017)
  • Orwell, George, 1984 (London: Penguin Books: 1954)

Secondary sources

  • Nafisi, Azar, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
  • https://answersingenesis.org/sanctity-of-life/eugenics/hg-wells-darwins-disciple-and-eugenicist-extraordinaire/
  • https://answersingenesis.org/sanctity-of-life/eugenics/hg-wells-darwins-disciple-and-eugenicist-extraordinaire/
  • https://quizlet.com/267637241/1984-critical-quotes-flash-cards/
  • Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia – https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/754682-there-are-occasions-when-it-pays-better-to-fight-and
  • Berkeley, George, http://philosophyforyou.tripod.com/berkeley.html
  • Michael Radford 1984 film

Additional Reading

  • http://faculty.gordonstate.edu/sraynie/Codi’s%20Literary%20Paper.htm#:~:text=In%20dystopic%20societies%20people%20are,Orwell’s%201984%2C%20written%20in%201949.&text=Dust%20is%20the%20primary%20symbol,the%20structure%20of%20the%20novel.
  • George Orwell – Politics and the English Language
  • George Orwell – Animal Farm
  • http://www.greatvalueonlinebooks.com/HGWellsPoliticsandReligion.html


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