Friday, December 9, 2011

War of the Worlds (part 2)

Sorry about not posting the second and third part sooner but I'm in the middle of Finals so bear with me.

Once the 'Center' has been established, the book begins to decentralize Geocentrism by highlighting hierarchal preconceptions. Two binaries come into play: human (intelligent)/human (inferior) and human/animal in order to show how the monstrous becomes the Geocentricity of humankind and the notion that we are central to all things. Wells begins to break down this notion through his insertion of the Martians into the Hierarchy of Man/Beast in a similar fashion to Jeffrey Cohen's argument in his article "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)". The addition of the Martian "as a kind of third term that problematizes" the hierarchy and highlights the instability through "a radical rethinking of boundary and normality" (Cohen 6). Wells sets the Martians as a third component to these binaries in order to fragment the currently accepted normative values. Ironically the reader is asked to withhold judgment of another species in light of human’s historical action that are “ruthless and [brought] utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals… but upon its inferior races” (Wells 5). However where Cohen uses this transgression of monsters as a method of escape, within War of the Worlds it is used as catalyst, one in which first incorporates into the current binary, redistributes the power balance, then destroys or distorts the system into a new formation.

With the Martians in the picture, men react to the first cylinder by “rapp[ing] on the scaly burnt metal with a stick” (13) and boys in turn “amuse themselves… by throwing stones” (15). These descriptions are early in the chain of events but the anxiety it causes, this return to a primitive description of man, shows the immediate distortion caused by the Martians entering into the hierarchy. They become propelled off their former pinnacle into an interstitial space of insecurity. But not only is there anxiety in this replacement at the top, but also of the capacity that if they could be replaced then what might also further change in the power structure. The question of evolution becomes relevant. Humans are seen as animals in comparison to the Martians and the fear of become actual beasts or their equal is a monstrous notion. Could human kind devolve and degenerate to the level of an animal?

The transition of the binary structure takes a complex route throughout the story. The initial binary as mentioned above are reduced to the focus on Human/Beast as the Martians land on earth. Here the binary structure incorporates the aliens, through the eyes of humans into: Human/ Alien=Beast (aliens and beasts become equivalent in the hierarchy). The narrator relates a discussion between the men at the pit where one speaker states that “It ain’t no murder killing beasts like that” (42). Wells is very intentional in his word choice so it is not a mistake in the word choice within the conversation. Yet the narrator shows his perceptive qualities as he describes the Martians lack of interest in humans being the same way humans would ignore “the lowing of a cow” (43). These repeated references to humans as being related in a Martian view point to an animal begins to restructure the hierarchy into Alien/Human/Beast, where humans become placed under the Aliens. Yet the repeated references to humans as beasts in the eyes of the Martians has a further disturbing effect so that as humanity is slowly being destroyed, the hammering of this view point redistributes the power almost to an equality between man and beast: Alien/ Man=Beast. All these possible categories that humans can slip within are frightening even though the circumstances are fictional.


  1. Where does Tom Cruise fit into all this?

  2. Otter that's the movie. This is the book ;p

  3. Very interesting post I enjoyed it immensely

  4. The first part and second was very good, see what brings us the third

  5. Never actually viewed War of the Worlds this way! This is quite different!