The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The War of the Worlds can help.

The War of the Worlds: Book 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Running out of the woods, the narrator follows a road until he’s exhausted, at which point he falls near a bridge and stays there for a long time. He eventually comes to his senses, realizing he’s lost his hat and his collar. While he previously felt only terror, now he feels normal again, “a decent, ordinary citizen.” He remarks that there is “no sensible transition from one state of mind to the other,” and he can hardly say whether what he has witnessed actually happened. Picking himself up, he walks homeward and encounters a group of people in the street. When he tries to talk to them about the Martians, they brush him off, saying they’ve heard enough about the ordeal. 
Interestingly enough, the narrator—who witnessed the Martians’ fury first-hand—is able to transition from complete fear to a state of relative tranquility. He even tries to discount his own experience, clearly using wishful thinking to try to convince himself that what he saw can’t possibly be real. This aligns with the general public’s unwillingness to recognize the severity of the situation—an unwillingness that implies humans aren’t ready to admit that their continued success and survival on earth can’t be taken for granted.
Themes
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
News and The Dissemination of Information Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Frustrated by the way the group of pedestrians responds to his comments about the Martians, the narrator stumbles into his home, where he immediately sits and drinks wine. He tells his wife over a dinner gone cold about the Martians, lamenting Ogilvy’s death and talking about the horrifying creatures. Realizing this line of thinking will frighten her, he recants and comforts her by repeating everything Ogilvy believed about the Martians and their inability to live on earth. “In particular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty,” he writes. He explains to his wife that, since earth’s gravity is three times stronger than Mars’s gravity, the Martians won’t be able to move very well on earth. He notes that this opinion is widely accepted, remarking that the Times and Daily Telegraph both report the same thing.
Once again, the narrator takes refuge in ignorance and naiveté, ignoring the dangers he himself witnessed and choosing instead to focus on what the newspapers incorrectly report. In other words, he actively goes out of his way to deceive not only his wife, but also himself. Of course, this is a psychological defense mechanism, and a rather feeble one at that, considering the fact that Ogilvy—the original person to propagate this optimistic notion about the Martians—has died at the hands of the very beasts he claimed should be (according to science) no better than useless slugs on earth.
Themes
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
News and The Dissemination of Information Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The narrator admits in retrospect that he and the newspapers overlook two important factors when considering the Martians’ ability to survive on earth. First, earth has more oxygen, which aids the Martians in maneuvering their newly heavy bodies. Second, nobody takes into account that the Martians are so intellectually and technologically advanced that they’ve devised tactics to move on earth without relying on muscles. Nonetheless, the narrator knows none of this as he sits at the dinner table with his wife, saying with unfounded confidence, “We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear.”
The narrator’s assertion that the humans will “peck” the aliens to death the following day proves that he’s approaching the matter as if it’s nothing more than a standard military procedure. Indeed, this phrase sounds as if the narrator and his wife are discussing a simple battle between two countries. No matter how hard he tries to normalize the situation, though, there’s no changing the fact that humans are outmatched by the superior Martians.
Themes
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon