The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 11 : At the Window | Summary

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Summary

From the upstairs window of his study the narrator observes the destruction of his village and the fires all around the common, as well as the outlines of three creatures moving in the pit. He hardly recognizes his surroundings. The narrator begins to comprehend that the creatures from the cylinder operate the tripods, comparing them to a human-driven steam engine.

He invites a soldier outside the house to hide inside. The man recounts the futile military efforts against the Martians, who easily destroyed both companies and their weaponry before emerging as tripods from the pit and destroying the railway station and a train. The artilleryman managed to escape.

The two men look again from the window to see three tripods at the pit. As the sun comes up the narrator sees destruction "so indiscriminate and so universal" as to be unprecedented in human warfare.

Analysis

The author demonstrates the superior technology of the Martians over the best weapons available to the military. Artillery guns and two companies of soldiers are "wiped out" in just a few minutes. The metal machines with Heat-Rays easily destroy the railway station—another symbol of humanity's technological achievement—and cut off the population's best means of escape.

The narrator draws the connection between the "sluggish lumps" from the cylinder and the "mechanical colossi," referring to the tripods. He understands the grotesque creatures from the cylinder must control the tripods. He wonders what a lower creature must think about a human driving an ironclad (a ship fortified with metal siding) or the steam engine of a train. This comparison places humans in an inferior position to the Martians in terms of both intelligence and mechanical ingenuity.

The contrast between the strange and the familiar has been seen in other chapters, but the author creates an interesting twist here by showing how the invaders turn the familiar into the strange. They have the ability to rob humans of the familiar. The narrator laments that the "little world in which I had been living securely for years, [now is] this fiery chaos!"

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