Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Rules and Order

By H.G. Wells

Rules and Order

If we were to tell you that one of the big themes of The War of the Worlds is "Rules and Order," you might very well laugh in our faces (and hurt our feelings) – but you might be right to do so because there's very little in the way of order in this book.

In The War of the Worlds, we mostly read about a society that's falling apart. All rules and order fail except for one basic law of survival: if you see a Martian, run. The War of the Worlds shows us what happens when rules totally disintegrate. Before and after the invasion, though, we do see a more ordered society. Through the course of the novel we witness how people used to live, the disaster that destroys all their old order, and then the new, post-Martian order they build.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Are there any characters that are particularly associated with rules and order? How do they react to the upending of the rules with the arrival of the Martians?
  2. Are there any times in the book where rules and order are negative things? For instance, is there any time when people follow rules and so fail to respond in the right way?
  3. What does The War of the Worlds tell us about rules and order? Are they positive? Where do rules and order come from?
  4. We focus a lot on human rules and order, but is there any evidence in the book that the Martians have some rules and order? For instance, the narrator notes that the Martians work well together, which he uses as evidence of telepathy (2.2.24). But do we get any other hints of how Martians keep order amongst themselves?

Chew on This

The War of the Worlds is about the need for government that works with the people. It demonstrates this through the destruction of rules and order with the Martians, as well as the difficulty the narrator has imposing rules on the curate.

In The War of the Worlds, rules and order must have force to back them up.