The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 1, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

The narrator drops his wife off in Leatherhead and turns back to return the horse and dogcart. Surprisingly, he’s more excited than scared, as he looks forward to returning to the center of the action. When he approaches Maybury Hill—upon which his house sits—it is dark, but there is a “lurid green glare” lighting the road, and a third cylinder lands nearby. At this point, the weather erupts into a thunderstorm. In flashes of lightning, the narrator sees a large object in the distance, “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine-trees, and smashing them aside in its career.” This otherworldly machine towers above the landscape, and another appears next to it, this one seeming to charge right in the narrator’s direction. Startled, the narrator’s horse cuts hard to the right and topples to the ground.
The narrator’s excitement yet again reveals the dangerous side of human curiosity. Although returning to Woking is clearly an unwise thing to do, he finds himself willingly drawn to the calamity, perhaps a bit amused by the entire endeavor. In a way, he makes the Martian invasion into the same kind of “novelty” he references earlier when writing about the young people who, upon reading news of the Martians’ arrival, made light of the occurrence, treating it like nothing more than a titillating piece of news. In this moment, his curiosity reigns, unfortunately silencing one of his best survival tools: fear.
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As the narrator lies in a small creek, the tripod lumbers by him. When it recedes into the distance, he remains on the ground before scrambling into a ditch and running toward his house. In the blackness, he collides with a man traveling in the opposite direction, who merely shrieks and continues on his way before the narrator can ask him questions about the Martians. At the top of a hill, he finds a dead body and realizes with a sickening feeling that it is the innkeeper, whose neck has been broken. Everything is dark except for intermittent flashes of lightning and the glow of flames coming from Horsell Common. Finally, the narrator reaches his home and collapses on the floor, putting his back to the door and shaking.
In the face of the Martians’ awesome machinery—which confirms that these are highly advanced and capable creatures—human communication almost completely breaks down. Indeed, the man the narrator encounters on the road merely screams in his face, running away before the narrator can even attempt to gain information from him. In this way, humans short-circuit their own best chance at survival by striking out alone instead of banding together.
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