The War of the Worlds Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Curate is more than just an intensely unpleasant character. In fact, the Curate becomes for the narrator, who is seeking answers wherever he can, a being that represents faith in the unseen provider of spiritual solace. Call the Curate a symbol for religion if you must, but the revelation of the weakness of his psychological foundation can be said to symbolize belief in any intangible philosophy that bills itself as having the answers when a system breaks down.
Another character who is allegorical in nature. The artilleryman seems to have calculated a plan of action for defeating the invaders from Mars, but winds up merely going through the motions of what he has learned in his training to fight existing enemies. Ultimately, for all his talk, he is a soldier of inaction, transforming him into a symbol of the narrow-mindedness of the military mentality which trains for only one response to every kind of threat.
Throughout the story, the narrative is given to extensive metaphorical language comparing humans to animals. The symbolism is quite apparent in the context of the development of the human race in comparison to the Martians; puny little earthlings are to them as dumb beasts are to humans. The symbolism goes deeper than mere comparison with the advanced state of the invading army, however. The narrator’s incessant contrasts serve to underscore than even in comparison with the animals, man is not all that superior.
The pits in which the Martians lay dormant serve as a symbol of the cycle of life. From the pits they emerge after a very long gestation period like a baby being birth from the womb. Following their exposure to the fatal bacterial to which they have no immunity, they topple over dead into the massive pits, thus transforming them from womb to tomb.
The Martians themselves are loaded with symbolic weight. The novel was written during a period of great political instability in Europe made all the more potentially terrifying for a visionary like Welles who was not naïve enough to believe that the Industrial Revolution was not going to make the weapons of warfare in the future seem the stuff of science fiction. So the invading aliens can be seen as symbolizing any of the powerful European states angling for more territory and power. At the same time, the Martians effectively seeking to colonize earth to exploit its natural resources also points a guilty finger directly at England at the height of colonialist power, when the sun never set on its empire.
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