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

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Edition used: First Signet Classic Printing, December, 1986

1. “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” (p.1)

The opening, and often quoted, words set up the tone and hint at the situation for the rest of the novel. The “mortal as his own” is foreshadowing. The comparison drawn between the Martians and man, and man and animals is one that will continue to be used throughout the story.

2. “He compared it to a colossal puff of flame suddenly and violently squirted out of the planet, ‘as flaming gases rushed out of a gun.” (p. 6)

The flame and gun are some of the first war images in the book, as well as marking the beginning of the Martians’ trip to Earth.

3. “By eight o’clock a number of boys and unemployed men had already started for the common to see the ‘dead men from Mars.’” (p. 14)

Though it says something critical about human nature that people are drawn to the scene of what they believe to be an accident, it also is an image that will be paralleled in the end, when the Martians will be dead in a pit with men looking down on them in excitement.

4. “It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sky.” (p. 22)

The shopman is the first victim of the Martians. The setting sun is not only representative of the bloodshed to follow, but also of the coming darkness that will fall upon the land.

5. “I remember I felt an exordinary persuasion that I was being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death-as swift as the passage of light-would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder and strike me down.” (p. 27)

This shows the fear and hopelessness that spreads as the Martians advance with their superior technology.

6. “One of our chimneys cracked as if a shot had hit it, flew, and a piece of it came clattering down the tiles and made a heap of broken red fragments upon the flower bed by my study window.” (p. 44)

This can symbolize a number of things-the bloodshed across the land, the red weed that takes over the natural vegetation for a time, or as foreshadowing of the growth and rebuilding that will begin after the Martians.

7. “With one last touch of humanity I turned the blade back and struck him with the butt.” (p. 156)

This is one of the most powerful scenes in the book, when the narrator is given little option but to knock the curate unconscious.

8. “‘One gets to know that birds have shadows these days.’” -artilleryman (p. 172)

The comment is made right before he tells the narrator that the Martians are working on building a flying-machine.

9. “‘This isn’t a war,’ said the artilleryman. ‘It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.’” (p. 173)

One of many examples of the comparison of men to animals, it is also significant in challenging the title of the novel.

10. “By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.” (p. 191)

This comment is one of the most hopeful in the novel, coming right after the narrator’s discovery of the Martians’ death.

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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