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The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds

by H.G. Wells

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Biblical References

Literary and Journalistic References

  • Epigraph: The Anatomy of Melancholy was written by Robert Burton (1577-1640)
  • 1.1.8: Nature, a science magazine, which actually published an 1894 article on "A Strange Light on Mars"
  • 1.1.10 and 1.7.27: Daily Telegraph, a newspaper
  • 1.1.19: Punch, a satirical magazine
  • 1.2.22: Daily Chronicle, another newspaper
  • 1.4.16: Gorgon, a monster in Greek mythology that has snakes for hair. (Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters)
  • 1.7.27: Times, another newspaper
  • 1.14.3: St. James's Gazette, another newspaper
  • 1.14.7: Sunday Sun, a popular half-penny evening newspaper
  • 1.14.9: The Referee, a weekly paper
  • 2.2.20: The Pall Mall Budget, a magazine, which printed Wells' "The Man of the Year Million" essay
  • 2.4.18: Briareus, in Greek myth is a giant with a hundred hands 2.9.7: the Daily Mail is another newspaper

Scientific References

  • Epigraph: Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), astronomer
  • 1.1.2: Nebular hypothesis
  • 1.1.7: Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, astronomer who mapped Mars and named the "canali"—which means "channels" in Italian, but which some people took to mean "canals," which made some people wonder if the canals were made by people. (Percival Lowell is the American astronomer and writer who popularized in America the idea that Mars had canals that were made by intelligent creatures)
  • 1.1.8: Lick Observatory, Mount Hamilton, California
  • 1.1.8: Perrotin of Nice, the Directory of the Nice observatory
  • 1.2.1: William Frederick Denning (1848-1931), comet and meteor expert
  • 1.3.9: Astronomer Royal, the director of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England
  • 2.2.10: Professor George Howes, who was an assistant to T.H. Huxley when Huxley taught Wells
  • 2.2.19: Tunicates, a group of small marine animals, which like all marine animals are weird
  • 2.2.24: "Telepathy" was a term coined in 1882 by Frederic Myers, a member of the Society of Psychical Research; in 1894, Wells published a negative review of a book on telepathy
  • 2.2.25: Otto Lilienthal was an inventor of gliders – until his death in a glider accident

Historical References

  • 1.1.6: Tasmania, which became a British possession in 1803, leading to the extinction of the native Tasmanians in 1876
  • 1.13.1: The Earthquake of Lisbon, a very destructive earthquake
  • 1.15.13: Moscow was burned by the retreating Russian army in 1812 when Napoleon invaded
  • 1.17.1: The Goths were a Germanic tribe that fought Rome (and others) around the fourth century and that was involved in the fall of Rome; the Huns are a tribe most famous for Attila
  • 1.17.9: "The Committee of Public Supply" sounds a lot like the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution, known for cutting off people's heads
  • 2.1.8: Pompeii was a city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 B.C.

Other References

  • 1.8.5: W.H. Smith, a company that sells newspapers and books at stations (and still exists)
  • 1.8.9: Maxim, an early machine-gun design
  • 1.9.23: Oriental College 1.11.6: Potteries, the five towns in England that are most famous for their pottery making
  • 1.12.8: Theodolite, a tool used to survey angle
  • 1.12.8: Heliograph, a tool used to communicate by using a mirror to reflect sunlight
  • 1.14.9: The Foundling Hospital, basically an orphanage
  • 1.14.27: "Epsom High Street on a Derby Day" is, well, here's a photo of a Derby Day at Epsom much later. Epsom is a town where they have a famous race and so the main street would be very crowded on Derby Day
  • 1.15.20: Kopje is a word in Afrikaans (the South African version of Dutch) that refers to small, flat-topped hills
  • 1.16.63: The Chief Justice is the second most important judge in Britain, in charge of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. (Which totally changes the meaning of the book. No, just kidding. Though check "Characters: Lord Garrick" to see what it might mean)
  • 1.17.1: The home counties are the counties around London
  • 1.17.4: The Pool of London is the dock area of London
  • 2.7.83: The "old palace" is Lambeth Palace, where the Archbishop of Canterbury lives when he's in London
  • 2.7.85: The "Circus" is Piccadilly Circus, famous now for its bright billboards, but always a popular place
  • 2.7.92: Euchre is a card game, and some people still play it (although not for parish points, we think)
  • 2.8.28: Albert Hall was a major concert hall in London, and it still is today
  • 2.8.28: The Crystal Palace was built as part of the Great Exhibition of 1851
  • 2.8.28: "St. Paul's" is St. Paul's Cathedral, an important part of London's history. (And Wells wouldn't have known this when writing War of the Worlds, but during World War II, St. Paul's was an important symbol of British perseverance)

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