The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 10 : In the Storm | Summary

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Summary

The narrator, his wife, and their servant travel toward Leatherhead and hear weapons fire behind them, which stop suddenly. They arrive safely at Leatherhead and eat dinner, during which the narrator observes his wife's fearfulness before he leaves to return the cart to the landlord back in Woking as promised. The narrator confesses he was not sorry to go back and had a desire to witness the death of the Martians.

On his way he notices a red glow in the sky and then a green streak, which happens to be the third cylinder. It begins to storm. The narrator suddenly encounters "a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses," smashing through the woods next to the road. As soon as it vanishes into the woods, another tripod appears heading right for the narrator. He tries to change direction, but the cart overturns and the horse is killed. The tripod passes by. The narrator describes the two tripods bending over something in the distance, which he believes is the third cylinder. He continues on foot with difficulty, happening upon the landlord's dead body before he reaches home.

Analysis

Another example of the Martians' superior mechanical technology is evident. The towering tripods that move swiftly over obstacles, casting people aside and smashing through woods, are quite a contrast to the simple horse and cart so quickly destroyed in the narrator's effort to change course. By setting the first glimpse of the tripods in the night and in the middle of a thunderstorm, the author makes the encounter even more dramatic and frightening. The strangeness of the machines is evident in the narrator's halting efforts to describe them. He begins by saying, "And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it?" It's so unlike anything he has seen before, it is hard to find the right words. This "walking engine of glittering metal," a "monster" with metal tentacles and joints that squirt puffs of green smoke, is completely terrifying in its strangeness and power.

The narrator explains his desire to return to Woking as "war fever," which is an irrational enthusiasm for war that "occasionally runs through a civilized community." Just as a fever is an elevated temperature brought on by an infection or virus, war fever is a heightened level of excitement for conflict with the enemy. It is similar to bloodlust, and the narrator admits his desire to see the Martians killed. He "wanted to be in at the death." He even hopes the end of explosions he noticed on the trip does not mean he has missed the conflict. By contrasting war fever with the normal state of civilized people, the author gives the reader the first glimpse of the dehumanizing effects of war in general, which will be seen in coming chapters.

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