The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

The next day, the narrator is awed by the way the “commonplace habits of the social order” have seamlessly merged with the horror and mystery of the Martians’ arrival. In fact, it seems to him that very few people living more than five miles from the pit even change their daily routines to reflect the extraordinary events. “Many people had heard of the cylinder, of course,” he writes, “and talked about it in their leisure, but it certainly did not make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany would have done.” The telegram Henderson sent to London doesn’t even make it into print, since his newspaper thinks it’s a joke and is unable to reach him to ask questions.
Although the narrator himself appears somewhat prone to ignoring the Martian invasion—opting to peacefully eat dinner and deny the strength of the Martians instead of preparing for battle or flight—he also appears cognizant of the fact that his fellow humans (those who make up “the social order”) aren’t paying sufficient attention to the catastrophe. The assertion that the Martians’ arrival doesn’t even “make the sensation that an ultimatum to Germany” would make further illustrates this point, hinting that Englanders are so preoccupied with their xenophobic fear of foreign countries that they fail to recognize a true invasive threat when it lands destructively in the middle of a field.
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Every once in a while throughout Friday night, somebody approaches the Martians and never returns—a spot light sweeps out from the pit, finds trespassers, and ignites them with the Heat-Ray. From a distance, many people hear sounds like hammering come from the pit. These noises continue throughout the night while the odd tree or bush crackles with fire left over from the Heat-Ray. Eventually, two companies of soldiers arrive and line the perimeter of Horsell Common. And, to add to the growing tension, another projectile star falls from the sky mere seconds after midnight, landing in the woods north-west of Horsell Common.
Wells primarily uses this chapter to set the scene for the chaos to come, slowly erasing any doubts readers may have regarding the Martians’ strength and prowess. Indeed, the aliens prove themselves to be unambiguously violent through the use of the Heat-Ray, and their mysterious all-night construction marks them as an industrious species, a group of orderly creatures intently preparing to overthrow humanity. 
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