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The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells

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In The War of the Worlds, what does the narrator do when the Martians emerge from the crashed cylinder?

Quick answer:

In The War of the Worlds, when the Martians emerge from the crashed cylinder, initially the narrator does not run away like the other people. He stares, petrified, at a horrible-looking creature with a mass of snake-like tentacles. After registering the details of its dreadful appearance, as a second creature comes out, the narrator regains the ability to move and runs off to a safe distance.

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In The War of the Worlds, when the cylinder crashes in England, the people in the town where it fell assume that the “men” inside must have perished in the crash. After learning about the object, the narrator rushes to the commons where it landed to see for himself. As he approaches the cylinder, the narrator can detect no sound from inside. He doubts that there is “any living being” inside and wonders if the unscrewing from within had been automatic.

Amidst a growing crowd, a number of men, including an astronomer, begin to dig around the edges of the partially submerged cylinder. The narrator converses with them, then agrees to go look for Lord Hilton. When he returns, the cylinder is beginning to move. The people in the crowd endanger each other by jostling for a better view. As the end finally separates enough to allow the occupant to emerge, the narrator admits that he had “expected to see a man emerge.” Instead, what comes out resembles a “little gray snake.” As more tentacles emerge, almost all the terrified people run away. The narrator, however, remains there, “petrified and staring.”

The creature turns out to have a substantial bulk, with a recognizable face including large eyes that regard the narrator. He provides a detailed description of “the strange horror of its appearance,” with deliberate “tedious movements [which are] unspeakably terrible.” As the “monster” falls into the pit outside the craft and another one starts to emerge, the narrator’s “rigour of terror” lifts. While he runs away, he also keeps looking in horrified fascination at the creatures.

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