Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Foreignness and 'The Other'

By H.G. Wells

Foreignness and 'The Other'

You can't get much more foreign than being from another planet. (Maybe being from a different dimension would be more foreign? We're not sure.)

When the War of the Worlds Martians first appear out of their cylinder, the narrator wants us to know just how terribly different they are, what with their tentacles and head-bodies and lipless mouths. But at the same time, the narrator also makes several connections between them and us. For example, both humans and Martians have been known to invade and destroy.

If this book were an after-school special with a happy ending, the lesson might be something like this: "We're not so different from Martians after all – we're both jerks. Let's go get a coffee and talk about how to kill people."

Questions About Foreignness and 'The Other'

  1. Aside from the Martians being different from humans, are there other times in the book when foreignness becomes an issue? For instance, are there times when humans are considered foreign to other humans?
  2. How do the characters deal with foreignness? For instance, when the Martians first come out of the cylinder, how do people react? Do people continue to react in that way?
  3. What role does foreignness play in terms of war?
  4. Are there any benefits in this novel to foreignness? That is, is it always dangerous for two different people (or species) to come into contact? Or can it be mutually beneficial?

Chew on This

The Martians have to be depicted as utterly foreign because Wells is trying to tell us a realistic, science-based story. However, the Martians also have to be similar to the British in order for the moral to get through.

In Wells' War of the Worlds, we learn that foreignness and difference can always be overcome by finding some similarity or connection.