The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

The narrator approaches the pit, joining a group of bystanders who want to catch a glimpse of the Thing. Nothing happens while they watch, though they eagerly wait for the top of the cylinder to continue unscrewing. At this point, the narrator is sure that the Thing is from Mars, but doesn’t think there are living beings inside. Still, he does believe there are “men in Mars,” despite what Ogilvy has told him about the improbability of this. He hopes that the Thing contains a “manuscript”—some sort of message from extraterrestrial beings—and muses about the “difficulties in translation that might arise.” After some time, he grows bored and walks home again, where he tries to work but finds himself distracted. 
In this scene, the narrator finds himself pulled between two states of mind: curiosity and boredom. His interest in the Thing and the possible challenges in communication is tempered by a desire to go about living his everyday life. In turn, Wells puts on display humankind’s tendency toward habit, as well as a certain kind of willful ignorance that takes hold of people like the narrator. However, the fact that the narrator is unable to work when he goes home suggests that he knows something significant has happened, and his curiosity draws him to the unknown, disrupting his daily life.
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Literary Devices
More and more people flock to Horsell Common. Newspapers in London print headlines reading, “A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS. REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING.” The narrator returns to the pit, where people are selling soft drinks and crowding around the edge. Ogilvy sees him and asks him to visit the lord of the manor to ask for permission to install a railing around the pit. The crowds, Ogilvy tells the narrator, are getting in the way of the small group of astronomers working to unscrew the top of the cylinder. He explains that every now and again sounds can be heard from within the Thing. The narrator departs to find the lord of the manor, but discovers that he is in London and is expected to return soon. As such, the narrator goes home, has tea, and walks to the train station to meet the lord. 
It’s easy to see that newspapers immediately take advantage of the extraordinary situation, turning it into a sensational headline in order to sell more papers. Of course, the headline itself exaggerates the story, since no “message” has yet been transmitted or delivered from the Thing—except, perhaps, for the Thing itself. Once more, then, Wells shows the papers to be somewhat unreliable and prone to embellishment.
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