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Literature Review On War Of The Worlds: Historical Prerequisites For Themes And Ideas In The Novel

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This section reports the data gathered from the writing survey of the insightful works previously done on War of the Worlds from alternate points of view. The goal of this section is to set the foundation and setting for the discoveries from next parts. This part gives the scope of new thoughts and builds up a literature gap for future pursuits.

The discovery of lines and canals cut by some smart beings on Mars and the Victorian myths of War prompt the writers to pen down the confrontation of two different lives i.e human and aliens, accounting different perspectives regarding the SF genre, as the subject to bring not only technological but also ethical and religious crisis and innovations. They depict threats of War, Peace, Love, Terror, moral decadence, Scientific progress, Religious faiths etc, to human existence and world peace through respective regimes: Colonialism and Imperialism.

Fear of War and Scientific progress

Inglo Cornils in article “The Martians Are Coming! War, peace, love, and scientific progress’’ make a comparative analysis of LaBwitz’s Auf Zwei Planeten with that of H.G Wells’ The War of the Worlds to exemplify literary depiction of future wars. Cornils mentions that when a new dimension of myths of imaginary War started in Victorian England, Wells correlated War with Darwin’s theory of Evolution where the advanced side with best technology survives by pointing a parallel between monstrously ruthless Martians and Colonial Powers that had affected “inferior” races.(The war of the world 2).The novel suggests that the scientific progress may open the way to War. It maneuvers the danger and fear of technology and extrapolates the heroism e.g Artillery man suggested an underground world for survival. However, War cannot be avoidedas Wells claims that peace could be achieved after War. Though Martians are heartless and do not spare even women, children and clergy. They spread destruction throughout their way making the land favorable of their own use, but they, at least, do not discriminate between cases. The war with Martian is a struggle between good and evil. Martian’s has a keen sense of superiority and are all brain with no heart that lead to egoism, narcissisms and intolerance towards other species. Martian’s intolerance is contrasted from human’s ability to love though the depiction of relationship between narrator and his wife. As Well’s contempt for religious belief is evident as he evokes a sense of fatalistic pessimism where the belief in the confident survival is lost. So scientific progress becomes the decisive factor for Existence as well as a fear of uncertain future .Though Wells wishes a utopian society, the paranoia of war could not be escaped.


Jens Lohfert Jordensen in the article “Bascillophobia: Man and Microbes” explains the role of bacteria as the defenders of society. They are referred to “disenchantment” of the world, which is a characteristic of modernity (Max Webber). Analyzing Well’s drawing of an analogy between Human sense of considering Bacteria as lower beings and Martian considering the same about humans, highlights the Hierarchy operation in society in terms of value.

The bacteria in wells’ The War of the Worlds are depicted Powerful and destructive although these inferior creation is also the savior of human beings and, hence, the defenders of society. But the Progressive and reasoning minds now are susceptible to the thought of being superseded by lowly and humblest creation of nature. Bacteria in the novel challenges the commonsensical notions of late Victorian society that they are born to rule, cannot be defeated. So, it arises the fear of destructive, aggressive, powerful ambiguously viewed bacteria than any other danger. Warwick Globe’s illustration in the original, serialized publication of The War of the

Worlds in Pearsons’s Magzine highlights common characteristic of Martian and bacteria in which Martians appears ‘(m)nstrously microbial’ as Paul Fayter notes. This idea enhances the fact to talk about a bacteriological ‘evolution’ than ‘revolution’ in Britain because of the imposing threat of the presence of another ‘quantifiable’ creature that is dangerous for all humans including imperialistic and revolutionary reigns.

Themes of Colonialism, Terror and Humanity degradation

Syste Durkstra represents different perspectives of bacteriology, Colonialism, Technological superiority, Invasion and War, Aliens and terrorists, Darker side of humanity and Terror from space in the thesis “The War of the Worlds: post colonialism, Americanism and Terrorism in modern science fiction film”. Film adaptations as Independence Day (1996) and Steven Spielberg’s War of the worlds (2005) expand the fear of terrorism, invasion, 9/11 imagery. Both depicts aliens as hostile invaders and heightened threats to American culture. The people of London in Well’s novel considers aliens as inferior, being Other, at the beginning.

Sense of self-assuredness and confidence of power is evoked by considering lives on Mars as the Other who may be “Creeping’, and “Crawling” and thus, are opposite to the self- image of ever-busy, fast moving inhabitant of London, Capital of Word’s Largest empire. They take advantage of their technological superiority and consider human as low creature. Image of superior race in the novel emphasizes dethronement of human power. Social Darwinism, Imperialism and colonization invoke Victorian fear of evolutionary degeneration of mankind.

The artilleryman is an embodiment of Social Darwinism which favors the strong to survive while wishes the weak to exclude. The artillery man is ready to surrender at the nearly end of the novel, when humanity seems utterly defeated. The artilleryman, not unlike curate, is quick to accept the downfall of humanity. The depiction of alien landscape of ‘’Red weed’’ in the novel brings the devastating effects of invasion back to colonial power. Earth and humanity seems to be doomed, ultimately, it is not mankind or the Colonial power but bacteria that defeats the Martians.

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The adaptation War of the Worlds, based on H.G Wells’ novel, released in 2005 shows humanity as a much darker side. The dark characterization is depicted through the use of 9/11 imagery and depiction of Martians as a Terrorists. The period of horror from alien picturizes distrust and disillusionment in the characters. The characters portrays the demerits of being Villainous ranging from helplessness to moral depravity. While in Well’s novel the aliens are represented parallel to an imperialistic and colonial opponent with superior technology and an evolutionary advantage.. Their goal is to colonize Earth displacing Humanity in the process. Novel acts as a source of comparison to that of 9/11 imagery.

Conflicts of Science and Religion

Douglas Cowan, in a Journal of Religion and Film, writes an article “Intellects Vast and cool and unsympathetic: Science, Religion, and The War of the Worlds- Part I” which aims to delineate the dramatically difference of first cinematic version of The War of the Worlds from Wells’ original version.

H.G Wells’ novel there is a conflict between science and religion that is illustrated through deposition of characters in worse situation during Invasion. The narrator seeks help from Religion when he faces the extreme panic and preclude exemption from aliens. He presents fox-hole prayers when he hides himself with a curate in a ruined house from the horrible aliens. While the religious belief of, irrational and eventually insane, curate collapses under the calamity. The curate thins Martians are the messengers of God who has come with a bringing of the Almighty’s judgment on sinful and recalcitrant and insubordinate humanity.

In George Pal’s The War of the World (1953), unlike H.G Wells’ novel, the titles doctor of divinity and doctor of science ae held equal. Though the gap between both widens as the movie proceeds but no one is given privileged over the other. In fact, there is a peaceful resolution of conflicts. Pastor Collins, is introduced pre-eminently, focusses on the occupants of the Martians’ craft emitting Heat Rays. While Dr. Clayton Forrestor, highly educated man who is interested in Pastor’s niece, sees only their technology. The division is enhanced when scientists yield to military options (the use of force). On the other hand pastor Collins reason with marine commander Colonel, ‘’But, Colonel, shooting’s no good’’. ’’Shouldn’t you try to communicate with him first?’’ Pal’s curate remains unharmed from mental chaotic trauma of unable to differentiate between new innovative technology and Religion. The film also reveals a number of cultural fears after Second World War. The Martians’ destruction of humanity can be related to Nazi extermination of Jews.

Victorian Moralism

Denis Gailor’s article,“ ‘Wells’ War of the Wolds’, the ‘Invasion story’ and Victorian moralism” describes that afterwards the Franco-Prussian War, the genre of invasion story raised with the fear of next probable attack and the existence of foreign enemies Within England. It does not only stir the threat of safety but interprets it to moral decadence suggesting the link of future Wars as less significant than the connection between invasion and moral decline. The plot structure like setting of England with London centrality and Martian’s “unfair advantage”(The Battle of Dorking) confirms novel as invasion story. The stance of Martian invasion is not wrong as England had previously colonized the powerless by utilizing its imperial power over the races and the human race has exterminated the bison and dodo. Martian invasion is the justification of imperialistic England’s moral decadence from God. Likewise, the curate belief of Martians as “God ministers” suggests the relationship between fear, immortality, punishment and eventual death. The bacteria, from whom Martian’s has no immunity, symbolizes corruption and evil of Victorian human beings who are worthy of punishment due to moral decadence. The role of Martian as a moral chastiser signifies their positive approach to restore morality, yet the fall of their cylinder in a pit highlights them impure as well. The paradoxical psyche of wells is presented through these ambivalent descriptions and abstract relationship of fear, curiosity and punishment. The female-like physical appearance of Martians like V-shaped mouth, dark coloured eyes and Gorgon like tentacles implies attractiveness towards them yet the must look unattractive due to their destructive attitude. While, in contrast to Martians and curate, narrator’s wife is a real “feminine” figure representing anxiety and provoke the destruction of man.

The War of the Worlds as a Radio Adaptation

The War of the worlds was, performed in the Mercury theatre on Air in October 30, 1938, presented as a series of news bulletin with a 60 minutes broadcast. The series was directed and narrated by Orson Welles. It is after the intermission and at the end that an announcer mentioned the show was fiction. Some listeners who heard only a portion of broadcast considered Alien

Invasion as a reality. Studio described Martian as an invading army. This created panic in the masses. The news grows more frequent and ominous. A news reporter described people running ‘’like rats’’ and ‘’falling like flies’’. Then he himself succumbed to poisonous gas. People become frightened and considered a new disaster is to come after world War 2. Some panicked people presumed that Germans, not Martians, had invaded. In the aftermath, man listeners sued the network for ‘’mental anguish’’. Many old time American radio station re-aired the program as Halloween tradition. The program is recognized again in 1968 (modernized version of 1938), 1971,1973 ( identical to the broadcast of 1971) and 1975.

The purpose to mention this radio adaptation is to imagine the panic, anxiety and fear, personal injury and mental anguish as the ultimate consequences of fantasized Invasion if it will examine real. The discovery that lines on the surface of mars are not natural but cut by dyingcivilization fuels the abundant terror and fear of the existence of Other intelligent, superior, advanced and destructive creature in the novel.

As much of the work has done on different perspectives of the novel as mentioned above with a common, implicit, abstract of the Victorian anxieties that underlie H.G Well’s masterpiece have never gone away. Though the period had seen Industrial Revolution, technological modernity yet the uncanny continuity prevailed. Martian’s Threats to life, fear of War, degeneration of moral codes in the guise of personal security, the feelings of well’s curate towards outsiders and their advanced technology and consequent mental retardaton, public feelings of inability of communication with the disastrous creatures, and the role played by nature’s humblest creature are the products of uncanny invasion of the Martians in the novel. These factors can significantly be investigated in the context of Sigmund Freud’s”Uncanny” under two basic subdivisions of:

  • Threat of creatures from unusual(other) world and from Natural(self) world
  • Threat of destruction, loss ( castration)

The Martians and bacteria is considered the ‘’double’’ of each other and the protagonist and curate are ‘’double of one another in the sense that one substitute the other in the novel. As Freud defines doubling as ” dividing and interchanging the self”. The uncanny effect of curate can be analyzed in relation to its castration complex. The Martian’s attack is quite uncanny and difficult to discernible by normal human beings or average minds as it is an higher octane idea that may cause destruction and physical as well as emotional castration. Just like Unheimlich is the opposite of Heimlich, double o each other. This study highlights the devices that come to the surface, ought to be hidden, and arises the morbid anxiety in the characters as well as readers.

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Literature Review On War Of The Worlds: Historical Prerequisites For Themes And Ideas In The Novel. (2021, September 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“Literature Review On War Of The Worlds: Historical Prerequisites For Themes And Ideas In The Novel.” Edubirdie, 30 Sept. 2021,
Literature Review On War Of The Worlds: Historical Prerequisites For Themes And Ideas In The Novel. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Literature Review On War Of The Worlds: Historical Prerequisites For Themes And Ideas In The Novel [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 30 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from:
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