The End of the World as We Know It - in literature

The End of the World as We Know It - in literature

William Fothergill: 19/12/16

The end of the world seems to be a quite topical subject at the moment with the US election, Brexit as well as a myriad of reason that all are not that bad when you actually think about them. But the end of the world seems to be a popular idea in the world of literature. So why are we fascinated with it the end of the world, what thrills us with the idea of the society crumbling around us?

The idea of the end of the world goes far back but one of the earliest popular novels about the end of the world is HP Wells the War of the Worlds. The novel is about aliens invading an early twentieth century England and this signals a change in the way we view the end of the world. Before, the end of the world was something our gallant heroes or heroines try to stop, and this still carries on today but War of the Worlds introduced a new and depressing way to look at this and one in which we are helpless. The world is ending and there is nothing we or anyone can do about it. At the end the, aliens are killed not by humans but by disease. A lot of people criticised the end but Ii think that it fits perfectly with the tone that humans don't stand a chance and are outmatched. This early novel is an allegory for British imperialism with the fighting machines resenting the more technically advanced British dropping in and destroying in cultures.

The second most common way in which we end the world is by the ‘humanity being responsible’ idea, whether it be nuclear weapons, pollution or good old fashioned over population. Here the message is more obvious. For example, take The Day After Tomorrow, a poor film with some poor science; there no way any one could walk out of that cinema and say that film was not about global warming.

At of course we bring this up to date with zombies. Zombies have become the classy end of the world scenario that has been done in film, novel, television series and video games and most people would say has gone too far. But why are zombies suddenly so popular for the end of the world? The real reason is that there is the shift from apocalypse to post apocalypse, focusing less on the event itself but more on people’s lives after that and trying to survive. The post apocalypse creates a self insert fantasy as people wonder what would they do in this situation. This is why zombies are so popular as in other world ending scenarios, the idea of survivors is not that believable. I find it hard to believe a character can survive a nuclear war but with zombies it easy to say how someone can survive.