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The War of the Worlds | Symbols


Railway and Telegraph

These two important technological advances represent human achievement and show the possibilities of connection and communication through technology. They show just what modern man can accomplish. The distance between Woking and London is just a brief trip by train, and the telegraph alerts countries across the sea of the death of the Martians in mere moments.

The British railway system began with the Stockton and Darlington railway in 1825, powered by the first steam-powered locomotive, created by George Stephenson, which transported passengers while moving minerals. The first truly modern passenger railway was the Liverpool and Manchester railway founded in 1830, and by 1870 England had 13,500 miles of track. Expansion of the railway system continued throughout the 19th century, becoming the lifeblood of an increasingly industrialized Britain. It made fast and efficient travel possible at an affordable price. In its absence, even short journeys take days on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, as readers witness in the novel. In short, the railway changed everyday life in England.

Showcased at the Great Exhibition in 1851, the electric telegraph enabled almost instant communication across great distances via wire. The ability to convey messages in mere moments rather than the days or weeks it may have taken in the mail revolutionized commerce, diplomacy, and the news service, with sweeping effects on society.

These two technological advances ushered in the modern era, inspiring great pride and confidence in the ability of human ingenuity to overcome challenges, which makes their easy destruction in the novel so poignant.


The curate represents the church and its hypocrisy, failures, and waning relevance. The curate believes the Martian invasion to be the judgment of God, comparing it to Sodom and Gomorrah, two sinful cities destroyed in divine judgment by fire and brimstone from heaven as described in the book of Genesis. He sees human suffering at the hands of the aliens—whom he calls "God's ministers"—as divine retribution because he "preached acceptable folly" all while "the poor were trodden in the dust." The curate repents of his hypocrisy. He identifies the invasion as the coming of the Apocalypse, the end of the world described in the book of Revelations, a fear among some in England as it approached the 20th century.

In the face of the crisis, the curate is worse than useless—he endangers the narrator with his insane raving. He becomes incapable of rational thought or behavior in contrast to the logical approach of the narrator in the same situation. The curate's religion fails to comfort him, serving instead as an ideology of condemnation, leading to his death. As a symbol of the church, the curate shows just how little relevance organized religion has in the face of modern challenges. He offers no help, is a drain upon the narrator, even endangering the life of the narrator, and eventually he drives himself insane. This is in contrast to the rational scientific reaction of the narrator, who despite of his fear uses the time trapped in the house to observe the Martians and learn more about them, formulating the hypothesis that his best chance for survival is to wait until they leave the pit. The author uses the curate to show that the church offers no help and no future while science can provide both.

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