Fin de Siècle, Fin du Globe: Mars Invaders and the End of Beauty as a Transatlantic Phenomenon


  • Alessandra Calanchi University of Urbino "Carlo Bo"



Mars invaders, H. G. Wells, Dystopian fiction, End of Beauty, The War of the Worlds


The War of the Worlds is a famous novel by British writer H.G. Wells. Having been serialised in 1897 in Pearson’s Magazine in the UK and in Cosmopolitan in the USA, it is also an early example of globalisation, as it was read simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. Furthermore, unlike other works of the time (especially American) which conjured up social paradises and utopian worlds on planet Mars, Wells’ novel introduced into Western imagery the concretisation of a real threat coming from other worlds and capable of destroying the ‘civilisation’ that Europe and America had painstakingly built. The narrator, sometimes assuming the traits of the voyeur, and at other times those of the flâneur, becomes the symbol of a crepuscular phase of Western society that is already on its way towards the condition of a wasteland. Thanks to a deus-ex-machina device consisting in a new and powerful, albeit elementary, coalition between God and biology, the narrator survives the end of beauty, not only in an aesthetic sense, but also as a cultural heritage that should be preserved. As such, he is one of the most interesting and controversial characters of dystopian fiction; and it is not by chance that the novel has had so many sequels, accompanied by pastiches and adaptations, which have turned it into a real cult work transcending time and space. I intend to focus both on the characteristics of the narrator as a transmedia character and on the American reception of the original novel in the phase of transition from the Gay Nineties to the Progressive Era. This is a little investigated subject if compared, for example, to the countless studies on the collective panic that followed Orson Welles’ radio play in 1938.





Articles and Essays

How to Cite

Fin de Siècle, Fin du Globe: Mars Invaders and the End of Beauty as a Transatlantic Phenomenon. (2024). Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 4.