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Themes

It's called The War of the Worlds, so warfare must be important, right? Well, for the humans, this is definitely a war. The British military gets involved in a big way and there's death and destruction on an unparalleled scale. But for the Martians, this might not be war at all. It could just be an exercise in pest control before they move in. As the artilleryman puts it, "It never was a war, any more than there's war between man and ants" (2.7.32). There's a term that people use today to describe this type of war, a war in which the two sides are not evenly matched: "asymmetric war." In The War of the Worlds, the fact that only one side is really at war is part of what makes the warfare theme special (that is, insulting to humans).

Questions About Warfare

  1. Are there any historical wars that this human-Martian war most resembles? Is Wells playing with (for example) memories of the Franco-Prussian War or the American Civil War?
  2. Does the narrator's attitude toward war shift by the end of the novel? What does he think about war at the beginning (say, when the Martians arrive) and how does he feel about war towards the end?
  3. What would this war look like from the point of view of a soldier in the British army? How about from a Martian point of view?
  4. What do we see of the war itself? That is, we witness a lot of running around, but we don't get a lot of first-person accounts of military's actions. Do we get a fair sense of the war from this novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The War of the Worlds depicts war as part of the natural order of life: species evolve and compete, and war is simply a form of competition.

Because we see war from a non-soldier's point of view, we get the idea that war interferes with life.

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