The War of the Worlds Theme of Technology and Modernization
The "war of the worlds" is largely decided by technology. The Martians simply have better tech than 19th-century humans do. (It's like Batman fighting a jaywalker – one of these people clearly has better toys than the other one.) But just because we all wish we could go to school in a tripod doesn't mean we should diss human technology. For instance, though it's very common to us, the bicycle did change the way people live. (Check "Setting" for more on that. Or reread the section in Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which the knights come charging in on bicycles.) We could say the same thing about trains and telegraph wires and all other sorts of technology. Whether we're talking about Martian Heat-Rays killing people or human ironclad ships destroying Martians, technology changes the way people live (and die).
Questions About Technology and Modernization
- Besides the fact that technology is used to kill people, are there any examples of bad technology? That is, does technology ever hurt us in unintended ways in the book?
- Do any of the human characters have different relationships to technology? What would it have been like if the narrator ran into an engineer or an inventor, instead of just a curate and artilleryman? How would someone like that respond to the invasion?
- How does the theme of technology relate to the other themes? For instance, is technology related to fate and free will? Or to fear?
- What will happen with human technology after the Martian invasion? What do people do with the Martian technology?
Chew on This
In The War of the Worlds, technology is what separates intelligent beings from animals. So the Martians and the humans are more related to each other than the humans are related to the other Earth animals.
Although the Martians are finally destroyed by bacteria, which seems to make the ending a little spiritual for the narrator, the end is really a failure of technology and invention, as the Martians failed to invent some form of protection to replace their immune systems.