The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The War of the Worlds book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The War of the Worlds Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The War of the Worlds is one of a group of novels by H. G. Wells that are classified as scientific romances. The others are The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The First Men in the Moon (1901).

At the end of the nineteenth century, there was much scientific and popular speculation about the possibility of life on Mars. Astronomer Percival Lowell, for example, proposed in 1896 that the canals on Mars were the work of intelligent beings. Wells was acquainted with such theories and published nonfiction articles that discussed them. He also used the idea of intelligent life elsewhere to write a story that would shatter the Victorian belief in the inevitability of progress and the benevolence of the process of evolution.

At the beginning of the novel, humanity goes about its business completely self-assured of its mastery of nature and utterly ignorant of anything that might threaten it. The superior place occupied by humans in the chain of being is usurped in a matter of days. To make the point, Wells draws frequent analogies between how the Martians must regard humans and how humans regard lower life-forms. The Martians must have studied humanity as human scientists might study minute...

(The entire section is 413 words.)