ENG 3c Culminating Assignment
The War of the Worlds: Book and movie adaptation comparison
Part A: Summary
The War of the Worlds (1898), a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, is the first-person narrative of an unnamed protagonist's (and his brother's) adventures in Surrey and London as Earth is invaded by aliens. Written in 1895, it is one of the earliest stories that details a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. Despite its age, this book is still a widely-enjoyed classic, and has inspired nearly 50 movies, 6 Broadway productions, and 2 musicals (one of which I personally own) in its time! The War of the Worlds presents itself as a factual account of the Martian invasion. The narrator is a middle-class scientific journalist somewhat reminiscent of Doctor Kemp in The Invisible Man, with characteristics similar to Wells' at the time of writing. The reader learns very little about the background of the narrator or indeed of anyone else in the novel; characterization is unimportant. In fact, none of the principal characters are named The War of the Worlds has two parts, Book One: The Coming of the Martians and Book Two: The Earth under the Martians.
Part 1: The Coming of the Martians
The first book begins with the narrative in an astronomical observatory at Ottershaw where explosions are seen on the surface of the planet Mars, creating much interest in the scientific community. Later a "meteor" lands on Horsell Common, southwest of London, near the narrator's home in Woking, Surrey. He is among the first to discover that the object is an artificial cylinder that opens, disgorging Martians. They briefly emerge, have difficulty in coping with the Earth's atmosphere, and rapidly retreat into the cylinder. A human deputation (which includes the astronomer Ogilvy) approaches the cylinder with a white flag, but the Martians incinerate them and others nearby with a heat-ray before beginning to assemble their machinery. The narrator, shaken by the encounter, takes his wife to the safety of a nearby town and returns to London. He discovers the Martians have assembled towering three-legged "fighting-machines" (Tripods), each armed with a heat-ray and a chemical weapon named "The black smoke" by the narrator. These Tripods wipe out the army units positioned around the crater and attack surrounding communities, moving toward London. Fleeing the scene, the narrator meets a retreating artilleryman, who tells him that another cylinder has landed, cutting off the route to his wife. The two try to escape via Byfleet, but are separated at the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry during a Martian attack on Shepperton. One of the Martian fighting machines is brought down in the River Thames by British artillery as the narrator and countless others try to cross the river into Middlesex, while the Martians escape. Our hero is able to float down the Thames toward London in a boat, stopping at Walton. More cylinders are landing across Southern England, and a panicked flight of the population of London begins. This includes the narrator's brother, who flees to the Essex coast after the Martian's chemical gas is used to devastate London. The torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child destroys two tripods before being sunk by the Martians, though this allows the ship carrying the narrator's brother and his two female travelling companions to escape to the continent. Shortly after, all organised resistance has ceased, and the Martians roam the shattered landscape unhindered. Red weed, a Martian form of vegetation, spreads with extraordinary rapidity over the landscape wherever there is abundant water.
Book 2: The Earth under the Martians
At the beginning of Book Two, the narrator and a curate from Walton take refuge in a ruined building in Sheen. The house is nearly destroyed when another Martian cylinder lands nearby, trapping them in the house for almost two weeks. The curate, traumatised...
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