Sample Question

Discuss the ways in which the Narrator's behaviour reflects that of society at large throughout the Martian onslaught.

As with many of Wells' characters, he allows the Narrator to be somewhat wiser than the society that he is surrounded by. Whilst society is quietly going about its business, the Narrator is writing on matters philosophical, and when then begin mindlessly stampeding over each other, he strives to keep his reason. He also notes that "Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is common. At time I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all." Might this be Wells the author talking?

However, the Narrator is not completely immune to the tumult society finds itself in. Early on "Something very like the war-fever that occasionally runs through a civilised community had got into my blood" and he is keen to "be in at the kill." Also look at the occasions early on in the novel when he is gripped by terror. How does he attempt to overcome his fears? Examine also his arrogant dismissal of the Martians' chances, despite having actually witnessed the Heat-Ray. How does his comfortable domestic existence affect his attitude?

To what extent is the Narrator guilty of the weakness of man that the artillery-man speaks of? Is the Narrator's turning to prayer any more genuine than the "sentiment and religion" that the soldier imagines in the Martian cages. The Narrator spends a number of days resourcefully searching for food and hiding from the Martians in the seller of a house. Look at the parallels of his survival and the plans that the artillery- man has for the bands of "able bodied, clean-minded" men.

Can the 'Death of the Curate' be seen as the point that the Narrator succumbs to the incipient savagery of society, or is it merely a pragmatic action? Examine the build-up to the killing, the fact that the Narrator has to "resort to threats, and at last to blows" in attempts to control the curate. "I put out my hand and felt the meat-chopper hanging to the wall. In a flash I was after him. I was fierce with fear... With one last touch of humanity I turned the blade back and struck him with the butt." Is this anything other than an attempt at self-mitigation for the act itself? The death of the curate is rather oblique - it is not immediately clear that he is dead. However, later the Narrator reflects that "the killing of the curate... gave men no sensation of horror or remorse to recall: I saw it simply as a thing done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the quality of remorse. I saw myself then as I see myself now, driven step by step towards that hasty blow, the creature of a sequence of accidents leading inevitably to that." He claims he did not foresee the chain of events that led to the curate's death - "and crime is to foresee and do... There was no witnesses - all these things I might have concealed. But I set it down, and the reader must form his judgement as he will." To what extent might the damning description of the curate all be part of the Narrator's attempt at self justification? Might the killing of the curate be Wells' final blow in the book's attack on religion?

When the Narrator returns home, he finds his work still on his desk: "It was a paper on the probable development of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilising process, and the last sentence was the opening of a prophecy: 'In about two hundred years... we may expect - ' The sentence ended abruptly." How might the incident affect his predictions of moral development?

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