In 1938, an American radio broadcaster publicized ‘War of the Worlds’ in a drama show. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress. If listeners had not heard the beginning of the show, they would have believed that it was a realistic situation where there was a great chance of becoming worried. Adding to the problem, was the fact that it was narrated in news bulletins which continuously interrupted an opera program, This caused panic all over USA and it took hours to resolve the distress.
The novel was classified as science-fiction because it was constantly referring to the technology of these Martians and the future of life on earth. HG Wells was one of the first authors to kick start science fiction into a recognizable genre. The novel has been said to have influenced Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, George Lucas’ Imperial Walkers and of course War of the Worlds itself, a recent film by Steven Spielberg which was based on the actual story
HG Wells is an expert when it comes to creating tension with words. He is most famous for creating a dramatic effect of horror which he does consistently through War of the Worlds in places where the reader feels as though it is a real situation. There are many different techniques needed which HG Wells uses in his novel such as lots of adjectives and adverbs, alliteration, repetition and onomatopoeia.
In the beginning extract, HG Wells shows the reader the horror, alarm and revulsion which is being displayed by the characters in the scene. This puts the reader in a terrified situation as suspense is being built up through the extract.
Straight away, the reader is hit by the fact that a man has been pushed into the crater and he is panicking. Wells uses the phrase “scramble out of the hole again.” The word “scramble” gives a hint that the man is scared and alarmed and is trying desperately to tumble back out. The narrator then shows the nervous curiosity in the crowd as he “narrowly missed being pitched on top of the screw.” As someone “blundered” against him, this shows the chaotic actions produced by the crowd’s bewilderment and anxiety.
The narrator turns as he starts to realize the seriousness of the situation and the lid falls to the ground. Wells then uses the word “Thing” to describe the Martian, explaining that nobody knows what it is yet, and the confusion is gathering. The Shell which is now open appears to be pitch black, this is letting the suspense draw and the curiosity in the reader’s minds becomes more powerful. The narrator also had the sun in his eyes which gives the fear of the unknown as he can’t see it, almost like the fear of dark.
The narrator describes what he thinks he would see; something that is somewhat similar to a man, and how he was wrong; this builds up the suspense and gives a clue that the Martian is nothing human-like at all. Eventually, when we do get a description, it is an unhealthy one; “greyish”, grey is a colour which is not associated with life or liveliness. The other word is “billowy” which gives the reader a creepy, writhing sensation.
The narrator describes its appearance so the reader can imagine the aliens definitions, Wells uses alliteration towards the end of the paragraph by saying “coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me– ” the word writhing and wriggle give a sickly feeling which disgusts the reader.
HG Wells then describes the reaction of the audience, “There was a loud shriek from a woman behind.” The word “shriek” suggests that the emotion of fear is coming to the crowd. The narrator keeps his eyes fixed upon the cylinder which means that he cannot help looking at it and he is watching it carefully still in astonishment. He began pushing his way back which shows that he feels overpowered by the alien and he is backing away.
Wells then goes back to describing the creature as it has progressed out of the cylinder. He uses the word ‘greyish’ for repetition, so the reader gets a vivid picture. At the end of the paragraph, Wells uses the phrase ‘glistened like wet leather.’ This piece of text makes the reader feel disgusted and scared as it is being described in a revolting way.
He then shows the very quick encounter with the Martian by saying ‘Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly’ This extract is quite horrific because the alien has recognized the human and is staring at it. This makes the victim feel singled out and alone in this situation because the alien has specifically chosen him/her.
In the next paragraph, Wells describes how revolting and vile the creature is. For example, he uses the phrase “The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively.” This makes the reader feel as though the Martian is steady yet angry, as things often increase in pulse when angry.
The author deeply describes the inhumanity of the creature, and the revulsion it has on him; he shows this by writing “vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous.” These adjectives aren’t often associated with each other, as something which is crippled is not usually monstrous; this is to give the reader fear because the alien may not be physically powerful, but the crowd are still horrified and revolted by it.
Wells explains that this is not just an accident by saying “and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.” This brings extra shock to the reader because know they know that this is a force to be reckoned with as there is a whole colony of these.
Now, this is when the crowd realizes the urgency of the situation and the narrator begins to run “I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees,” this shows that the shock has taken a long time to sink in as most would start running as soon as they seen the organism.
The next noticeable thing occurs later on, when wells uses repetition to bring horror to readers. He says “I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in” This extract relates back to the earlier scene because it shows after all the time, the shopman is still panicking and trying desperately hard to escape. The alien has power over the man as the man doesn’t turn around and fight.
The next paragraph almost sums up the event in the chapter as it says “Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight” This summarizes the seriousness of the current invasion. It continues by saying that passers-by would not have realized the emergency taking place as the aliens were hidden by piles of sand. This makes the reader feel anxious because the situation is still growing whilst passers-by are oblivious to what is happening.
We begin the second extract taking place near the river Thames as the alien invasion progresses further. The extract begins straight away with immediate action as
the narrator is currently holding his breath underwater, hiding from the gigantic tripods which now roam the whole area, HG Wells uses the word “blundered” again to show panic and shock as blundering is often something which you do when it is disorganized and chaotic.
Wells then describes how the urgent situation is progressing; “The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter” this means that he cannot stay for long and it is inevitable that he will have to pop up for air, revealing himself to the tripods.
In the next paragraph, Wells builds up the tension when he finally makes eye contact with the Martians again. He does this by saying “take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether.” He builds up the tension so the reader is eager to continue, and it creates more drama when the aliens are finally described.
Wells uses the word ‘colossal’ to describe the sheer enormity of these machines and then describes how one of them was destroyed during the raid by saying “two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.” The description shows disgust and revulsion as this gives a more unusual, alien feel to it.
Next, he explains the mechanisms attached to the tripods as generators of ‘heat-rays’ this relates to the technology that was introduced at the time, as x-rays were discovered and some people were unsure of the concept. Wells scared those people by using ‘heat rays’ as a weapon of mass destruction in his book. In the same paragraph, Wells uses the word ‘hissing’; hissing is an onomatopoeic word often associated with snakes and it scares the reader because the word is unpleasant. At the end of that paragraph, the author describes the attack pattern of the aliens; he says “beams smote down this way and that” This reveals some of the aliens intentions as they are attacking everywhere they see, this could show that the aliens have no intention of leaving and probably plan to invade the world.
Wells begins the next paragraph with alliteration; he uses “confusing conflict of the noises clangorous” which make the words stand out more as they are important describing words. Wells begins describing the way the smoke mixes with the steam from the river in an unusual way, “Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river”. Wells does this to provide the reader with imagery which could relate to black humor, as despite the horror of the situation, he describes this part as happy and peaceful. This different way of description is continued throughout the paragraph as he also says “a smoky dance of lurid flames” in a way this creates unimaginable horror as he describes it like a ballet, combining a ballet with an alien invasion can actually cause a lot of drama. Wells then describes how the house which have not been destroyed are “awaiting their fate” showing that there is no chance of this stopping as the aliens are dominating their surroundings; it also shows as the houses being described as beings, this method is called personification.
Wells begins by saying how he stood still, petrified with not a chance of escape. He says, “I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds” This shows that the narrator is not even making an attempt to escape as he knows it is pointless. He then describes them as “little frogs hurrying through grass on the advance of man”. Wells said this to show the power and significance that the aliens immediately have over us as we are described as the small creature fleeing from the dominant one. At the end of that paragraph, he shows the panic taking place by saying “running to and fro in utter dismay” this shows how disorganized the humans are, and that they are desperately trying to escape the creature.
Wells describes how the aliens were progressing towards him and explains the consequences of the people trying to escape by saying “licking off the people who ran this way and that” This shows what would have happened to the narrator if he had gone down that path and shows how lucky he is to be alive, also he gives the reader more imagery as “licking off” is often what predators do after finishing with a carcass. He says how the heat-ray waved past him crossing the river, “It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam.” This explains the power and heat that the heat-ray can cause as it creates almost a tidal wave dashing towards him.
Wells shows the urgency of the situation by saying “the huge wave, well nigh boiling point had rushed upon me.” This explains that he has to run as fast as he could otherwise the boiling hot will have scalded him to death. He then describes how he was trying desperately to make it to shore, “I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore” The words leaping and hissing are used to describe the temperature of the water and to bring the reader back to the snake imagery. At the end of the paragraph, he says “I expected nothing but death.” as the alien is looking straight at him. This is a short, powerful sentence which brings shock to the reader and, later on, surprise.
He describes how the alien mustn’t have spotted him as it passes only a few feet away from him and after that he realizes he has survived “I realized that by a miracle I had escaped.” This is a dramatic change in atmosphere at the end of the extract and it is incredibly relieving since it gives the reader happiness and comfort after a worried, torturing extract.
We begin the third extract in the middle of chapter eight named Dead London, it is a short extract which sums up the whole story and it takes place after the last Tripod collapses and concludes the failure of the invasion.
The extract begins with the narrator making his way to the crash site of the machine and on his way, he sees a rising sun. This is significant because it is the sign of a new beginning and it gives the reader a triumphant feeling as it is the start of something rising to the top. When they arrive, they realize this was the last and only place left were the Martians had control, proving that they have defeated everywhere else. In the next sentence, Wells shows that there is still life by saying “an eager dog ran and disappeared.” This gives the reader peace of mind to know that there is still life after the invasion. At the end of the paragraph, Wells describes the alien as a “motionless monster.” This alliterates to give more meaning to show that the alien is dead.
He then describes inside the crater-like area where the aliens populated by saying “A mighty space it was, with gigantic machines here and there within it,” Wells is showing the power that the aliens had, and how the must have died from an abrupt non violent ending. Wells then shows the triumph the humans had over the aliens by saying “a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row,” This shows that the Martians were dead and that the area that they are in is similar to a graveyard as soldiers are usually lined up in a row when they are dead.
Wells triumphantly explains how the aliens became extinct, as he says “slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared” This tells you that the aliens died from disease, as they had no immune systems which could prevent or protect these diseases. Wells continues with repetition of the word ‘slain’ to make the text sound like a war speech because it sounds very triumphant. At the end of that paragraph, he also describes how it was actually bacteria, the smallest thing which destroyed the aliens.
In the last paragraph of this extract, H G Wells sums up the dramatic downturn effect the aliens had, he also mentions how humans evolved to adapt to viruses and disease; “we have developed resisting power” Proving that the aliens would not have survived as they had not developed any resistance.
Then Wells describes how the germs helped us in this war by saying “our microscopic allies” this shows how without these germs, we would have been doomed. Another point is brought out when wells says “By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright to the earth,” The first part of the quote shows how advanced and overpowering these Martians were as they had killed 1 billion people, and the second part shows how these deaths have actually strengthened our confidence and created an official birthright. The last sentence of the extract is quite short, yet very meaningful, “For neither do men live nor die in vain.” This shows how every man has a purpose to survive on the earth, to pass on genes to evolve.
To conclude, Wells creates many different types of atmosphere, with dramatic changes. The tension created is purposeful as it is used throughout these extracts. The way H G Wells creates this atmosphere is unique and powerful because he shows reactions in other people which affect his feelings. I believed War of the Worlds was a very interesting story. I feel Wells wanted to show a possible sign for the future, to try and give the people some vague idea as inventions and new discoveries were starting to develop. He also showed that there will always be hope even when you think you have no chance.