The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 7 : How I Reached Home | Summary

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Summary

The narrator runs away from the common in fear, only coming to his senses after a rest near a bridge. As he walks home he reflects on the "blank incongruity of this serenity and the swift death flying yonder." He asks people he passes for news of the common, but they know nothing, scoffing at his alarm over "the creatures from Mars." He reaches home and shares what he has seen with his wife. He comforts his wife's fears by recounting the difficulty with which the aliens move because of Earth's greater gravity than the Martian homeland.

The narrator admits that at the time he overlooked two important points that mitigated the effect of increased gravity on the aliens: a greater concentration of oxygen on Earth and their superior mechanical knowledge, which would help them succeed and adjust.

The narrator reflects at the time he was confident in humans' ability to defeat the Martians with something as simple as "a shell in the pit." He enjoys a leisurely dinner, later comparing himself on that night to a dodo enjoying its nest, unconcerned about the visiting sailors who are actually harbingers of its coming extinction. The narrator tells readers it is the last evening of its kind for "many strange and terrible days."

Analysis

The author explores how fear changes people. It can root them to the spot, or it can send them scrambling away. The narrator says fear made him unable to know anything apart from "the immensity of the night and space and nature, my own feebleness and anguish, and the near approach of death." The narrator describes coming to his senses as returning to "the self of every day again—a decent, ordinary citizen." Fear turns people into something very different from what they normally are.

This chapter, like so many in the novel, ends with a bit of foreshadowing designed to leave readers in suspense. This literary technique commonly known as the cliffhanger was a favorite of authors and editors of serialized fiction. In fact the novel was first published serially, one chapter at a time, in England's Pearson's Magazine and in Cosmopolitan in the United States. In order to encourage readers to purchase the next issue to find out what happens next, authors often hinted at exciting events in the next installment, as Wells does here by telling readers the narrator will now experience the comforts of home before facing unknown and awful things to come, which he holds out for the future reading.

The author once again contrasts the familiar with the strange in the juxtaposition of the fiery death ray in the common and the serenity of the village. The narrator marvels, "It was all so real and so familiar. And that behind me! It was frantic, fantastic!" The contrast is so stark it seems unreal. Indeed the narrator rationalizes as best he can how the threat cannot really be so great as it seemed, turning to the comfort of the familiarity of domesticity and science.

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