The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 2, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

The narrator admits to feeling regretful that he can’t help settle the many questions swirling in the aftermath of the Martians’ stay on earth. Nonetheless, he explains that none of the Martians’ bodies, upon inspection after their death, contained any bacteria other than the kinds one finds on earth. “That they did not bury any of their dead,” he writes, “and the reckless slaughter they perpetrated, point also to an entire ignorance of the putrefactive process.” Shifting his attention away from the many questions about the aliens’ anatomy and capabilities, the narrator focuses on the “possibility of another attack,” a topic he doesn’t think the general public takes seriously enough. He proposes that, since humans now know the position of the Martians’ launching gun, the planet should be monitored so that defensive measures can be taken if they once more send cylinders hurdling toward earth.
Once again, the narrator highlights how important it is to remember that the process of natural selection unfolds in response to a being’s immediate environment. The Martians didn’t take this into account when planning their journey to earth, and it cost them dearly. Although they seem to have understood the difficulties they would face with regard to oxygen and gravity, they ignored—or perhaps didn’t know about—the prevalence on earth of micro-organisms. If they’d paid closer attention to such evolutionary nuances, it’s likely they would have successfully dominated earth and the entire human race.
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Literary Devices
The narrator insists that humans can no longer “regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding-place for Man.” At the same time, he adds that there is, in fact, a silver lining to the Martian attack, since the invasion has “robbed [humanity] of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence.” He also mentions “the gifts to human science” brought on by the Martians’ attack. Above all, he champions “the broadening of men’s views,” which has opened doors for innovation. When the earth is no longer inhabitable, he points out, humankind now knows that interplanetary travel is possible. More importantly, the attack has made him appreciate what he has. He now finds a strange new dimension of joy when he holds his wife’s hand after having thought she was dead.
“The broadening of men’s views” benefits humankind because it encourages people to explore ideas otherwise deemed implausible. In this regard, readers might recall the way the wagoner easily dismissed Ogilvy on account of his disheveled appearance and seemingly crazy news about “men from Mars.” Close-mindedness constantly interferes with humanity’s ability to survive. Nobody was willing to treat the threat of the Martians as valid until it was already too late. Now, the narrator points out, people won’t make the same mistake.
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