Reading Pointers for Sharper Insight
As you read H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds be aware of the following:
Wells uses first-person narration in The War of the Worlds. The narrator is a scientist who is also affiliated with an astronomer. Having this scientific connection gives the narrator a perspective that is much different and much more detailed than other individuals who experience the Martian invasion. The narrator has information that only a few citizens possess. However, the narrator's perspective changes for a few chapters, and the destruction and chaos is seen through the eyes of the narrator's brother; this technique gives readers insight into how the general public deals with and feels abut the Martians.
Wells, as a late-nineteenth century author, uses many literary terms, complicated sentence structure, and difficult vocabulary throughout the novel. These techniques may be slight barriers to understanding and enjoying the novel, but the plot and descriptions in The War of the Worlds are compelling enough that these obstacles are easily overcome.
Since the story of the Martian destruction takes place in and around London, England, it was necessary for Wells to list the neighborhoods, landmarks, and cities that the invaders destroy. This technique would have enabled the British reader of the time to identify more closely with the areas that are under attack. It does, however, pose a problem for an American reader. Many of the places Wells mentions are listed and explained in the Glossary, which should help clear up any confusion about them.
In 1894, because the orbit of Mars was quite close to Earth's, astronomers from around the globe were able to observe it carefully for the first time in modern history. They were able to see the irregular features on the planet's surface, such as deep cracks, fissures, and what we now believe are dried-up streambeds. One Italian astronomer called them “canali,” which means “channels”; the word was mistranslated to mean “canals,” however, and this led to the strong belief that intelligent beings built actual canals on Mars. “The red planet” held a strong appeal and fascination for readers of Wells' time, and he capitalized on this sense of wonder in writing the book.
Wells depicts the Martians in great detail, with special emphasis on their biological makeup and how they are able to maneuver around England. The Martians, therefore, are realistic and understandable as living, thinking beings; Wells does not over-dramatize their appearance or their physical abilities. Instead, he makes their reaction to the Earth's atmosphere the turning...
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