In the book The War of the Worlds why do the narrator, his wife, the artillery man, and the curate not have actual names?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good question. In H.G. Wells' 1989 novel War of the Worlds, the novel's characters are seldom named (exceptions are Ogilvy, the astronomer who first detects activity coming from Mars, and "Henderson, the London journalist"). This is also curious because Wells seems incredibly concerned about naming every little town and feature in the English countryside (e.g., Ottershaw bridge; Horsell Common), but he does not give us the names of the main characters.

I would suggest that the reason for Wells' silence on the names of the main characters is because he wants these characters to represent static types in society. The narrator is an educated adult male in society, as is his brother the medical student. The narrator's wife is supposed to represent the typical female in society. The artillery man may be intended to serve as a representative of the military.

The most interesting, in my opinion, of these unnamed characters is the curate, whom Wells puts forward as a representative of the Christian church. Given the literal meaning of the word "curate" (one who cares) and given the expectations of those who are adherents of Christianity, Wells' curate behaves in a rather cowardly way ("He was as lacking in restraint as a silly woman") and seems to care for only himself ("I tired of the sight of his selfish despair").

In sum: Wells' decision not to name his major characters seems to suggest that the reader should regard them as stereotypical representatives of society.

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The War of the Worlds

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