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'War of the Worlds' - Wells' portrayal of the collapse of Victorian society - Part 1

'War of the Worlds' - Wells' portrayal of the collapse of Victorian society - Part 1

‘War of the Worlds,’ was written by H.G. Wells, who is often regarded as one of the founders of science-fiction. It was published in 1897 at the height of Victorian society; the divide between classes was never bigger, and new scientific ideas were challenging entrenched religious beliefs, both of which are greatly infused within the novel. The story was serialised, a chapter within each edition of Pearson’s magazine, hence the climaxes of each chapter are quite dramatic, and contain a cliff-hanger; ‘It seemed so safe and tranquil,’ which is used to make the audience want to read the next part by creating the feeling of impending disaster through the use of the word ‘seemed,’ implying the human race was oblivious, and almost kept in the dark.

     In chapter three, Wells focuses on demonstrating how important the social classes are, by saying, ‘He met a waggoner and tried to make him understand, but the tale he told, and his appearance, were so wild – his hat had fallen off in the pit – that the man simply drove on.’ This shows how strict the dress code is, as even a lower-class man realises he cannot talk to someone without a hat, as they must be crazy. If society had collapsed then people wouldn’t care whether or not someone wore a hat; they would be concentrating on survival. Wells added this with the intention of the readers being able to relate, whilst possibly causing them to question their own attitudes. Perhaps Wells’ background played a part in his focus upon the separation of social classes; he had grown up in a family that had been middle class until his father’s injury, so he was forced to give up his job to end up as a poor businessman, and his mother had to become a maid for a rich family. As Wells experienced life in two different classes, it will have enabled him to describe the classes more accurately, and possibly show empathy; we see a working class character having the most intelligent ideas later in the book, as if H.G. Wells was deliberately destroying the stereotypical view of this class, which is yet again another way he weaves socialism into the novel.

     Chapter four sees the cylinder opening to reveal Martians; ‘A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather,’ which was a major breakthrough in the science fiction genre. By using adjectives such a, ‘bulk,’ and ‘slowly,’ and the adverb ‘painfully,’ Wells gives the impression that the Martian is having difficulty in moving, a normal function, which may be suggesting how men assumed they were superior to all life-forms in the Victorian era. 



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