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Written by Timothy Sexton
The Mercy of Nature
Relentless invaders from Mars are marching inexorably toward inevitable victory over an utterly overpowered human race. Nothing, it seems, can possibly stop the alien invasion from a comprehensive annihilation of mankind. And then, suddenly, as if by a miracle, the enormous tripods topple over with the Martian controller inside dying. Victory as a result of humans learning the weakness of their enemy and innovating weaponry to fight back? No, the human race is saved only by the mercy of some of the tiniest creatures on the planet: bacteria. The message of this theme is that but for the mercy of the natural world, the human race would have become extinct.
Critique of British Imperialism
The Martians may seem like they are just killing machines with no purpose and a psychotic bloodlust to some, but then that is exactly the way many of those in foreign lands felt when British troops arrived for the purpose of colonizing them. The brutal nature of the devastation wrought by British imperialism around the globe is coded into the manner in which the Martians lay waste to an alien culture on a planet far from their home.
Darwin’s theories on natural selection and subsequent politicizing of the evolutionary progression into “survival of the fittest” had been stimulating debate and discourse over the potential for superior genes which had even managed to bring H.G. Wells into controversy surrounding the eugenics. The potential for an invasive species from another planet farther along on the evolutionary timeline was a natural outgrowth of advancements in astronomical observation appearing coincident with Darwinian theories. A pervasive theme running throughout War of the Worlds is the fear of how a seemingly inferior genetic strain could possibly hope to hold its own against an invading army comprising a superior genetic strain. That the Martians, despite their advancements in weaponry and warfare, prove inferior on the issue of biological adaptability is a climax directly related to this sense of anxiety.
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