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The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells-Free Study Guide

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THEMES


The major theme is one of the possible submission of men. The most obvious form is that of being at the mercy of the Martians, as they chase men from their homes and capture them to use for injection. However, some of the other characters have given in to forces other than the Martians. The curate has become a victim of himself and his religion. The artilleryman turns to a life of drinking and playing cards. However, the narrator (and others) remains strong, and though he has his moments of weakness, he does not let the devastating situation get the better of him for long and eventually stands on top of a hill, looking at the dead Martians and then at London, knowing men have won.

The minor theme of the inhumanity of imperialism is mentioned from the first chapter. Throughout, Wells makes subtle remarks about other social problems, particularly the plight of the working-class. Another minor theme is the horrors of war, a lesson that emphasized by telling that study of the Heat-Ray was discouraged. Finally, as might be expected from Wells’ background, issues such as the conflict between science and religion (demonstrated by the interaction of the narrator and the curate), the idea of natural selection (the idea of which the artilleryman twists; it is why men are able to exist on Earth but the Martians die off suddenly), and question of life on other planets are brought up.


MOOD


The stated intention of the novel is to set out an exacting narration of the events concerning the Martian invasion. This has lead to a pervading mood of solemnity and intensity, as the narrator sees his surroundings destroyed and people meet gruesome deaths. Though he tries to keep a sense of logic and order in his life, emotion often comes out strongly. There is also a sense of helplessness occasionally, as attempts to stop the Martians fail.



H. G. WELLS - BIOGRAPHY


H.G. (Herbert George) Wells was born in Bromley, England on September 21, 1866. His family was not well off-his father worked as a shopkeeper and cricket player and his mother was a housekeeper. Wells was the couple’s fourth and last son. At age eight a broken leg accelerated his interest in reading.

When his father was no longer able to make enough to support the family, Wells became a draper’s assistant at age 13. However, he was able to attend the Normal School of Science on a scholarship, where he met Thomas Huxley. Wells went on to teach biology until 1893.

“The Time Machine” was published in 1895 and quickly became a favorite among readers. This was the first of a series of yearly successes that included “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The War of the Worlds.” This early writing cemented his reputation as the father of science fiction (though sometimes he shares this title with Jules Verne, whom he was compared to throughout his life) but Wells also wrote history and social commentary and was involved in politics for much of his life. As he aged, his writing became more realistic and pessimistic.

Wells was married twice, the second time to one of his students. He also had a ten year affair with Rebecca West, whom he met after she reviewed his book “Marriage.”

On August 13, 1946, Wells died in London, after living through two world wars and seeing Orson Welles’ broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” strike panic in listeners. Many of his books remain in print and are popular even today. Additionally, many of his novels have been dramatized as movies, including The War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Time Machine. The stories of The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine have been made into movies at least twice each, demonstrating the continued popularity and fascination with the novels.


LITERARY / HISTORICAL INFORMATION


Many of the minor themes in this book relate to Wells’ own time. The Victorian Age in Britain lasted for most of the 1800s through the early 1900s. It was a period of great empire and industrialization, but along with that came hardships, particularly for the working-class. Working conditions were poor and occupational hazards were a part of life. Wells also drew on his background in science.

Natural selection and the conflict with religion were emerging as strong issues.

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