Summary of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells|
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Later the narrator learns more about the Martians’ new weapon. The tubes fire out canisters that hit the ground and let loose a kind of black smoke. However, it does not act like a gas. It is heavier than air and settles like dust along the ground. Therefore it is possible to escape by sticking to buildings and trees over fifty feet in height. When it comes in contact with water, it forms a “powdery scum” that eventually sinks. Water that is strained from it was safe but, in the more gaseous form, it is deadly.
The Martians rely mostly on the black canisters that night, firing them wherever they suspect weapons are hidden. The switch from the Heat-Ray is explained as either because its materials are of a limited supply or because they had no desire to destroy the land they are invading. This is supported by their cleaning up of most of the vapor, which they did by shooting steam into it.
Men were firing off shots in vain just before the vapor reached them. After this, efforts would be limited to mines and pitfalls; there would be no more organized assaults against the machines. It was all that could be done to alert London to the need for flight. The fourth cylinder falls that night.
The Martians are described as resembling “a speck of blight,” which is appropriate. Blight can mean either a plant disease that results in wilting and death (similar to the Heat-Ray’s effect on plants) or it can refer to something that destroys hopes, which the Martians’ destruction has certainly done.
In Chapter Nine, the narrator had told a group of soldiers about the Martians and one of them had said they sounded like octopuses. This fits a little better, now that they have weapons that can dispense an “inky vapour.” It is interesting to note that both the deadly smoke and the Heat-Ray would later come to have real-life counterparts in World War I, when poison gas and flame throwers were first used in warfare.
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McCauley, Kelly. "TheBestNotes on The War of the Worlds".
. 09 May 2017