The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 6 : The Heat-Ray in the Chobham Road | Summary



The narrator reveals people still do not fully understand the heat technology the aliens use to kill people, although they know that "whatever is combustible flashes into flame." He reports there are charred remains of almost 40 people around the pit before recounting the events that up led to it. He reveals that the Deputation is killed by half past eight. Prior to their destruction, Stent and Ogilvy sent for a military force to defend the Martians from violence, before "that ill-fated advance."

The narrator describes what he and the crowd witness as "three puffs of green smoke, the deep humming note, and the flashes of flame" ignite the group approaching the pit, as well as the landscape. The crowd stampedes in horror, and a few people are crushed to death in the panic.


Reflecting on the events of the previous chapter in more detail, the narrator's report of the Heat-Ray is a great example of the journalistic style that lends realism to the novel. Once a journalist himself, the author uses these skills to craft an engaging hook at the start of Chapter 6. The narrator begins with the mysterious weapon that killed so many in such an unexpected way, remarking that humans still do not understand how it works. Any good journalist includes facts and concrete details, as well as eyewitness accounts when possible, which the narrator provides, describing the sights and sounds on the common that night and the reaction of those who were there. Also like a journalist, the narrator must use transitions and time references to maintain a clear sequence of events.

The author invokes the reader's fear of invasion by using darkness, fire, and death to create a hellish setting in the common that night. It seems fear was the right response to the Martians after all. The author portrays Ogilvy's optimistic, peaceful assumptions about the aliens to be misguided folly. The people flee in fear before the invaders apparently intent on killing them.

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