The Role of the Martians in The War of the Worlds
The Martians represent all that is bad about imperialism. We are told that as their planet, Mars, threatens to stop supporting life, they see the Earth and set out to take it over using physical force and weaponry. They do not seem to consider peaceful cohabitation. It is not even made clear whether the Martians view mankind as having any intelligence, thought or feeling. This reflects HG Wells’ views that during a period of great colonial expansion, native populations were often treated unacceptably and their needs and views ignored. The Narrator tells the reader that Humans also have similar tenancies to the Martians as humans kill others (other humans and animals) and steal from other humans.
The Martians are portrayed as highly technologically advanced compared to humans. They also seem incapable of emotions and feelings such as guilt, remorse, or empathy. This reflects HG Wells’ concerns that with scientific development comes great power and a tendency to play ‘God’. In war, common human decency is often cast aside for ruthless pursuit of victory. The Martians are therefore presented as killing machines, but they have also evolved to work extremely efficiently as living organisms. They no longer have complex digestive or reproductive systems. However, they are physically weakened and rely on machinery to do their work for them. This reflects the growing industrialisation of the 19th century, which saw many working class people forced into jobs in factories and mills, using huge machinery. Quality of life was low as people worked long hours and earned little.
Essentially HG Wells juggles two main theories about the Martians through the Narrator;
1) They are completely alien, so we can feel free to judge them.
2) They are just like us, so we can't judge them (or at least, if we do, we're really judging ourselves?).