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War of the Worlds - Wells' portrayal of the collapse of Victorian society - Part 3

War of the Worlds - Wells' portrayal of the collapse of Victorian society - Part 3

    In the chapter entitled ‘Heat Ray,’ the narrator comments on his neighbours being especially inarticulate; ‘What ugly brutes!’ he said. ‘Good God! What ugly brutes!’ Repetition is used to represent the fact that the man is in shock, which was felt inappropriate for a middle-class person to be, weakening the gap between the classes; the lower classes might be expected to repeat themselves, as they ‘did not know how to deal with their emotions’ or indeed possess a large enough vocabulary to describe the situation. ‘The fear I felt was no rational fear,’ is the narrator trying to say that he felt he was over-reacting, even though he had just witnesses people being murdered by heat-ray, something he had never seen before, that could easily have killed him too; he is attempting to repress his anxieties, as is expected of him, no matter how dire the situation. I think Wells included this to force the audience to see how ridiculous their social expectations were; even in the face of death, they must remain calm. I think this is a particularly successful use of language, as one of the greatest human fears is death, so the reader would realise that they too, would probably run in terror from the impending disaster, instantly forgetting their appropriate conduct, as their fear governed their actions, much the same as someone from another class.

     Also within chapter five, Wells introduces the ‘heat-ray,’ which was undoubtedly devised as a result of his interest and extended education in science. This was another breakthrough as no such thing had been invented or even speculated before; the heat-ray had similarities with technology we see in today’s microwave; Wells had foreseen the future of our evolution, an idea he develops further in the novel. The fact that the Martians had superior technology to the humans may have lead to a negative reaction as we believed in the Victorian era that we were undisputably the most advanced species in the universe; to have us lower than the Martians was a contradiction to society’s views, causing the audience to challenge their own perceptions, whilst portraying how oblivious the human race is in reality, from the previous chapter, where the narrator compares the Martians to animals, when we are to Martians, what animals are to us.

     Chapter six shows society falling more; ‘Incontinently everyone was turning and pushing at those behind, ‘which gives the impression of equality, as it is all classes behaving in such an uncontrolled manner, acting violently to others, to save themselves, so they are pushing all morals and ideals of courtesy aside in their fear. ‘They must have bolted as blindly as a block of sheep,’ is a simile that Wells uses to continue the idea from previous chapters, that we are no more than pathetic creatures to the Martians, as they can treat us as they wish to without fear of us having the technology nor intelligence to disobey them. 



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