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The War of the Worlds Study Guide by H.G. Wells

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The story is written about events that occurred six years previously and spanned only a little more than a month. For the most part, the plot follows in chronological order what happens between the landing of the first cylinder in Horsell Common and the narrator’s return home after the death of the Martians. Exceptions to this include scientific details as were later learned and are inserted throughout the book, and the branching off to tell the story of the brother. What happens to the narrator is the focus of the story and the chapters are broken up by significant events of his life during the time of the war.


The possible submission of men

This refers not only literally to the Martians taking over the world and reducing men to breeding purposes, but also in a symbolic way to men to machines, as was feared during industrialization. A number of other vices, such as drinking, were problems, especially among the working class.

The inhumanity of imperialism

The Martians’ unfeeling conquest is meant as a criticism of British imperialism. They subjected those in the colonies to a status below that of citizen, and occasionally, below human.

The horrors of war

This includes not only the frequent scenes of dead bodies and buildings in ruins but also the mental toll. The artilleryman, who had been a devoted soldier, becomes an impractical dreamer. The narrator ends up attacking the curate. And in the mass migrations, people turn on each other in their fight for survival.

Science issues

The conflict with religion is emphasized by the problems between the curate and the narrator. The opposition is further shown in the end, when St. Paul’s cathedral has been damaged but the Crystal Palace (the site of the first world’s fair, which was formed to show off the technological achievements of each nation) is shining. The idea of natural selection is somewhat twisted by the artilleryman when he talks about the weak wanting to die off for the good of the race. However, it is a concept central to the explanation for why men can survive on Earth but the Martians cannot. The question of life on other planets is addressed mostly at the end, in the mention that people no longer knew what could come from the stars, and might one day venture to another world themselves.


The book is predominately told from the narrator’s point of view as a recounting of events. This takes away something of the wonder over how the book will end since it is known from the start that the narrator is writing about the events of six years ago so he clearly survives. However, since the narrator is not named, this adds universality to his story, making it easier to identify with him. So while the reader knows that he will survive in the end, he feels for him more strongly-the end is less intense, but the events leading up to it are more powerful.


Hidden Meanings / Allusions

Many of the chapter headings have hidden meanings or allusions. “Under Foot” refers to both the burial of the house by the landing of the Martians’ cylinder and the curate’s behavior. “Dead London” seems at first to describe the bodies of men that lay everywhere and the destruction of the city but in a more positive way it can also include the Martians, whose deaths are greeted with joy. “The Exodus from London” and “The ‘Thunder Child’” refer to the Bible and mythology respectively.

Vocabulary/Use of Language

Wells uses a number of words that may be unfamiliar to the average reader. Some of these words are unknown simply because they are just not used frequently whereas others are names of places and things that only people familiar with the area would recognize. This vocabulary adds credibility to an otherwise imaginative story.

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The War of the Worlds Study Guide by H.G. Wells

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McCauley, Kelly. "TheBestNotes on The War of the Worlds". . 09 May 2017