The War of the Worlds
Power Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. (1.1.4)
We're going to spend pretty much the whole book thinking that the Martians are an unstoppable power. (Which to be fair, they are for most of the novel.) Still, it's worth noting that Wells gives us a little hint at the beginning that there's something even better than the Heat-Ray. (Nuclear weapons? No, Wells won't write a story about nuclear weapons until… 1914!) What's even bigger than the Martians is the force of nature, the unstoppable march of time and evolution. That's why when Mars is dying, the Martians are forced to change or die.
The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. (1.1.5)
Whether or not we agree that "life is an incessant struggle," there is something interesting about this notion being shared by both Martians and humans. This isn't quite the same as "might makes right" but it seems pretty close. There's a sense in which life is founded on a test of power, and if you're not as powerful as the next person (or species), then tough luck.
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. […] Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit? (1.1.6)
Through much of the first chapter, Wells kind of calls out his readers. It's like he's saying, "You might say that you believe in charity and mercy (and other nice concepts), but really, look at the things you do." When we read this, we're put in the position of someone who can't really argue. (Even if the bison did make a comeback later.) It's like Wells is setting up power as the basis for life, but that message changes at the end of the novel.