Literary Qualities

At the time Wells wrote The War of the Worlds, science had become the subject of much public debate. During this period, the natural sciences were becoming part of the everyday curriculum of schools. Journalists responded to the general interest in science-and the particular interest in Mars and its possible inhabitants-with a multitude of speculations. Wells chose a topic for his novel that was calculated to catch the public’s imagination. In addition, his care in presenting accurate details, both in Setting and about the everyday lives of his Characters, gives the narrative a powerful immediacy, as though the action could be taking place in any reader’s own yard.

An interesting technique is Wells’s use of symbolic names. The Narrator could be an Everyman figure-a character who is meant to symbolize all human beings. More pointedly symbolic are the Curate and the Artilleryman. They are not given individual names of their own, but instead stand as representatives of their kind. The Curate, representing a religious point of view, cannot cope with the invasion of Earth by creatures who do not fit into his theology. The Artilleryman represents the bravado and impotence of the military in the face of immensely superior weaponry. Usually, an author will try to interest readers in individual Characters; in The War of the Worlds the great mass of humanity is more important than the Characters because of what Wells wants to say about imperialism, technology, and social evolution. He therefore individualizes his Characters only a little, preferring to emphasize what they have in common with the types of people they represent.

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