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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Martians as the Other
Metaphorically speaking, the invading armies from Mars can, was and definitely (as history would prove) should be read as a symbol of an outside threat to the world in general and to England specifically. The Martians can most assuredly be considered metaphorical inhabitants of any of the non-British invasive nations with which England had been warning with for one time or another for centuries: the Germans, sure, but just as likely the French or the Spanish.
The Martians as Ourselves
An equally valid interpretation for many (though not so much for readers of the first edition when published in England) is that the beings from another world really just a metaphorical personification of sorts of British imperialism. The end of the British Empire was firmly in sight for many and just as firmly out of the range of vision for most. Colonization of foreign lands is made real and horrifying in a way in Welles’ book that, ironically enough, it never was made real and horrifying in history books.
The red weed is a central element of the Martian invasion is a physical metaphor for all the human blood that is shed during the war. On a less obvious level, the weed also acts metaphorically as a kind of foreshadowing of the uncontrolled progression of earthbound disease which ultimately infects and kills the invaders from Mars.
Liquid and Vapor
Throughout the novel can be found scattered—but interrelated—instances of metaphorical descriptions of the human race in liquid or vaporous terms. For instance, a variant of the word “stream” occurs more than thirty times. Variants of “pour” (which also includes the British spelling of vapour) also breaks through the 30 mark. All these references are metaphorically related to the porous and disorganized defense of the human who ultimately are forced to rely upon evolution to do their work for them.
“It looked like a rusty gas float.”
This is the very first simile in the book used to convey to the reader what the threat from Mars looks like. As more of the invaders become realized, of course, much greater description will follow. The opening simile serves as an excellent example of the art of building suspense. Nothing in that simile gives any indication of the terror to come. What Wells does here is teach the art of writing fiction: don’t give everything away up front, especially in a longer work in which suspense truly has time to be carefully layered.
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