Doing A Jig Because I Finished
That’s right, you read the title right. I have finished War of the Worlds. While I found the book daunting, I did feel a great sense of accomplishment when I finished it. The curate is dead, not that anyone is surprised by that fact. The aliens are dead, again not that anyone is surprised. Our narrator is alive, considering the whole thing was written in past tense I’m not surprised. Now there is one section that I wish to discuss. This would be the section with the artilleryman.
“This isn’t a war. It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now–just ants. After Weybridge I went south–thinking. I saw what was up. Here’s intelligent things, and it seems they want us for food. First, they’ll smash us up–ships, machines, guns, cities, all the order and organisation. All that will go. At present we’re caught as we’re wanted. A Martian has only to go a few miles to get a crowd on the run. And I saw one, one day, out by Wandsworth, picking houses to pieces and routing among the wreckage. But they won’t keep on doing that. So soon as they’ve settled all our guns and ships, and smashed our railways, and done all the things they are doing over there, they will begin catching us systematic, picking the best and storing us in cages and things. That’s what they will start doing in a bit. Lord! They haven’t begun on us yet. Don’t you see that? Cities, nations, civilisation, progress–it’s all over. That game’s up. We’re beat. There won’t be any more blessed concerts for a million years or so; there won’t be any Royal Academy of Arts, and no nice little feeds at restaurants. They ain’t no further use. Those who mean to escape their catching must get ready. I’m getting ready. I’m going on, under their feet. I’ve been thinking about the drains. Of course those who don’t know drains think horrible things; but under this London are miles and miles–hundreds of miles–and a few days rain and London empty will leave them sweet and clean. The main drains are big enough and airy enough for anyone. Then there’s cellars, vaults, stores, from which bolting passages may be made to the drains. And the railway tunnels and subways. Eh? You begin to see? And we form a band--able-bodied, clean-minded men. We’re not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. All these–the sort of people that lived in these houses, and all those damn little clerks that used to live down that way–they’d be no good. They haven’t any spirit in them. I’ve seen them skedaddle off to work–hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays–fear of the hereafter. As if hell was built for rabbits! Well, the Martians will just be a godsend to these. Nice roomy cages, fattening food, careful breeding, no worry. After a week or so chasing about the fields and lands on empty stomachs, they’ll come and be caught cheerful. They’ll be quite glad after a bit. They’ll wonder what people did before there were Martians to take care of them. And the bar loafers, and mashers, and singers–I can imagine them. Very likely these Martians will make pets of some of them; train them to do tricks–who knows?–get sentimental over the pet boy who grew up and had to be killed. And some, maybe, they will train to hunt us. No, we have to invent a sort of life where men can live and breed, and be sufficiently secure to bring the children up. We don’t know enough. We’ve got to learn before we’ve got a chance. And we’ve got to live and keep independent while we learn. See! That’s what has to be done. And when we do learn–Just imagine this: four or five of their fighting machines suddenly starting off–Heat-Rays right and left, and not a Martian in ’em. Not a Martian in ’em, but men–men who have learned the way how. It may be in my time, even–those men. Fancy having one of them lovely things, with its Heat-Ray wide and free! Fancy having it in control! What would it matter if you smashed to smithereens at the end of the run, after a bust like that? I reckon the Martians’ll open their beautiful eyes! Can’t you see them, man? Can’t you see them hurrying, hurrying–puffing and blowing and hooting to their other mechanical affairs? Something out of gear in every case. And swish, bang, rattle, swish! Just as they are fumbling over it, SWISH comes the Heat-Ray, and, behold! man has come back to his own.”
That is eugenics. That’s exactly what Wells and others thought. I have put a bold font on the particularly disturbing aspects of this speech. Eugenics was the belief in the extermination of those that did not possess the qualities deemed worthy. Think the Nazis here, that was a eugenics program. They did not deem the Jewish people worthy and so they exterminated them. They believed this was for the better good. The outcome justifies the means. Eugenicists believed that eliminating the sickly, diseased, dense, criminal, or weak in any sort of way (including racial prejudice), would strengthen the human condition in the long run.
This speech inflamed our narrator, he agreed with all of his heart about what was being said. He never, not even once, was disturbed by the idea of the martians keeping people as pets. He was never disturbed by the fact that the martians would be fattening human beings up for the slaughter. That never entered his brain. He wasn’t turned off by this idea. What changed his mind about the artilleryman’s plan? The fact that he viewed the artilleryman as weak. Once he saw his slovenly ways, he was deterred. It wasn’t the human cost but the moral cost that he was concerned about.
I am done. I am done! This is one book that will sit on my bookshelf, as a reminder that I got through it, but I’ll never pick it up again!