The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

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Themes and Colors
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
News and The Dissemination of Information Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The War of the Worlds, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy

The Martians hold dominion over England during their short stay in The War of the Worlds. If not for the bacteria that eventually kills them, it seems certain that they would go on to rule the animal kingdom, replacing humans at the top of the world’s pecking order. As a result of this reshuffling of the hierarchy, the Martians’ presence brings about significant changes amongst humans. Amidst the chaos of the Martian attack, many…

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The Other and The Unknown

With its lush descriptions of otherworldly creatures and unfathomable machines, The War of the Worlds underscores that all alien stories are, at their root, stories about discomfort with—and fear of—the unknown. Wells’s story falls under the broad category of “invasion literature,” a genre of fiction made famous by Colonel George Chesney’s “The Battle of Dorking” (1871) which details a hypothetical invasion of England by German forces. Englanders were perhaps especially anxious about the prospect of…

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News and The Dissemination of Information

Information is a vital resource during the Martians’ attack on England in The War of the Worlds, and how information is disseminated becomes a key theme, as the narrator makes clear early in the novel that the newspapers are able to sway people’s minds. As various bits of information work their way through England, it becomes evident that the dissemination of information doesn’t always serve the end of protecting people. Instead, people often pass…

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Evolution and Survival

In The War of the Worlds, Wells explores the extremes of what is possible under evolution and natural selection. Compared to humans, the Martians are highly advanced in their technology, suggesting that their evolutionary history is also longer than that of humans. Although the narrator says they “may be descended from beings not unlike” humans, it’s clear the Martians are much further along in their process of evolution than humans. Their advanced abilities make…

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