The War of the Worlds
Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. (1.1.1)
In the beginning of the book, the narrator wants to make sure we understand that the Martians are not like humans. They come from far away ("across the gulf of space"), they make us look like animals, they envy us, and they plot against us. The rest of the chapter includes a few other general comments about how the Martians are different than us ("we men […] must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us" [1.1.5]). Why is the narrator laying it on so thick?
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit? (1.1.6)
If you were chugging along in 1.1, nodding along with the narrator when he was telling us how different the Martians are from humans, this sentence should stop you. Sure, the Martians are from far away, but humans and Martians both make war "in the same spirit." What does it mean that humans and Martians can have some similar "spirit"? That's word is open to a lot of interpretation.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge – possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. (1.4.12)
The narrator – well, just about everyone in the novel, really – makes the mistake of thinking that the Martians are going to be like us. Here, the narrator makes that mistake about a physical similarity. Elsewhere, before the Martian cylinder is opened, he makes the mistake of supposing that the aliens might have sent a written message, but who says the Martians even have a written language? Or how about when Ogilvy leads a group of people to meet the Martians while waving a white flag. Seriously? If you think that aliens will understand what a white flag means, then you shouldn't get to be in charge of making contact with aliens.