Essay 3 – War of the Worlds and Marxist Criticism

ENGL 110
Fall, 2014
Instructor: Prof. Mitchell Smith

Essay 3
War of the Worlds and Marxist Criticism

Due Date: Thu 12/18

Length: 6 pages minimum, approximately 1500 words (you may write more)

Task: You will write a paper of interpretive literary criticism on War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Essays of literary criticism should aim to enrich the reading of others by identifying and explaining aspects of the reading that you find significant. This does not necessarily mean you will reduce the story to a simple meaning or message. Instead, you will show how the story creates meaning through its crafting of elements of fiction that may include character, setting, plot, point of view, language, and style.

Unlike your previous essays, this time you will apply a critical theory to the work, in this case Marxist criticism. Critical theories guide your analysis, hopefully taking you in directions you may not have thought of otherwise. They help you focus on certain elements of the story and infer particular meanings from the language. For example, Marxist criticism might direct your attention to depictions of socioeconomic classes like the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, ideology, false consciousness, class consciousness, hegemony, alienation, commodification, othering, double consciousness, cultural hegemony, and repressive ideologies like imperialism, consumerism, colonialism, individualism, etc.

Most of all, Marxist criticism urges us to see how novels grow out of the material and historical conditions of the author’s culture. So in addition to using Marxism, you will also need to apply the research you have already done as part of your Victorian jigsaw project to your essay. Your thesis must argue that the novel relates in a significant way to the topic you already explored: Utilitarianism, Positivism, Social Darwinism, Laissez-Faire Capitalism, or the New Victorian Woman.

For example, if your project was Social Darwinism, you might look at how the novel criticizes the repressive ideology of one class dominating another, especially under the guise of natural and objective science. If your project was laissez faire capitalism, you might chart the depiction of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in various characters through the novel or the effects of commodification on oppressed humans. For those who researched positivism, Wells’ futurism as expressed by the narrator in the final chapters may be of interest. The New Victorian Woman could be explored through Marxist and Post-Colonial concepts of othering.

In practical terms, this use of Marx and the jigsaw project means that each paragraph of the body of your essay should contain at least one reference to Tyson and one reference to your research topic.

Essays that do not directly quote and make specific reference to both the novel and the Tyson text, using correct MLA citations, will not be considered passing. 

Audience: As always with literary criticism, this is a critical paper, not a book review. You can assume your audience has read the stories, so there is no need to waste space with summary of the stories.

Purpose: Since this is a critical essay, you will need to find repeated patterns in the novel that support your interpretations and readings. Keep in mind, while there is no one “correct” reading to a novel, there can be many wrong ones. It is not “all up to one’s interpretation.” You need to find multiple citations from the text to support your analysis.

Format: Essays for this course must use MLA style formatting and citations. Failure to use MLA or excessive errors can result in a failing grade. The MLA style guide, any good English manual (like the Diana Hacker series), or the OWL at Purdue website ( can give you help on using this style correctly.

Highlights include:

  • All essays must be typed and double-spaced
  • Margins must be 1-inch on all sides of the page. Align the left margin only.
  • Use 12 point Times or Courier font
  • On the first page (only) type your name, professor name (“Professor Smith”), course number (English 110 plus section number), and date at the top left corner margin 1″ from the top of the page
  • On each page put your last name and page number in the upper right hand corner outside the margin, ½” from the top of the page (most insert page # commands will default to this placement)
  • The title (not underlined or italicized or in quotes) should be centered above the first paragraph
  • Proper MLA citations for all outside sources (the literature and Tyson)
  • A Works Cited page

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