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The War of the Worlds: To what extent does H.G. Wells successfully create a climate of terror?

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Introduction

The War of the Worlds: To what extent does H.G. Wells successfully create a climate of terror? H. G Wells very successfully depicts an atmosphere of terror and foreboding by using a number of literary and dramatic techniques. He uses vivid descriptions, metaphor, simile, contrast and powerful imagery to show the horrific results of an alien attack on an unsuspecting population. The opening lines ("No one would have believed...slowly and surely they drew their plans against us...") create a dark ambience and menacing atmosphere. Wells' intense descriptions introduce an evil, powerful and cunning enemy (...intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic...) and gives the aliens those characteristics that the reader finds most unsettling and frightening, like reptile skin (...like wet leather...) and ugly features. Upon seeing the creature for the first time the narrator "stood petrified and staring...a sudden chill came over me...ungovernable terror gripped me...there is horror on the faces of the people..." Wells makes the reader feel the narrator's emotions: "I was overcome by disgust and dread...by something unspeakably nasty". Wells description is so vivid that the reader and the on-lookers are repulsed and frightened by the look of the aliens: ""gorgon groups of tentacles... little grey snake coils...lipless mouth... it heaved and pulsated convulsively...painful movement...tumultuous breathing...something fungoid...intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous". Wells is a master at slowly building suspenseful incidents which then lead to outright terror. For instance, at the beginning a single shopkeeper is pulled into the pit and "a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an octopus flashed across the sunset". ...read more.

Middle

But each time he introduces a sinister element. Here he tells us that humans are all "like a dodo awaiting its death". He also uses vivid descriptions and colours to unsettle the reader. The crowd standing around the pit is described as "standing black against the lemon-yellow of the sky". Progressively Wells increases the threat from the aliens by adding to their arsenal of weapons. He begins with the alien cylinder which leads to the release of a giant Heat Ray. He then introduces the tripods which are brilliantly described as "walking engines of glittering metal" and "vast spider-like machines nearly 100 foot high, capable of express train speed, and able to shoot intense heat beams, with tentacles". These are followed by gas shells which contain "a heavy inky vapour". The Martians are able to communicate by "siren-like howls". As the book progresses the horror intensifies as he describes in detail what they look like, how they feed and what they feed on (the blood of humans using a pipette). Wells uses interesting methods to provide us with the overall perspective and sweep of the carnage. He gives us reported narrative from the point of view of three other characters - Ogilvy the astronomer, his brother in London to provide the full London dimension, and the artillery man. The latter narrates how his platoon was wiped out by "huge black shapes, grotesque and strange..." and the soldier "lying under a heap of charred dead men and horses..." Wells attacks all the readers' senses as the soldier reports that the smell was like "burnt meat". ...read more.

Conclusion

The Martians search the abandoned house in which the narrator and curate are stuck. His use of simile to compare the Martian to a "black worm" creates a disgusting image in the reader's mind. The tension created in this scene forces the reader to read on. The use of rhetorical questions "Had the Martian seen me? What was it doing now?" heightens the suspense in the scene. Progressively the Martian gets closer. The terror reaches its peak when the Martian touches the heel of his boot. The emotion shown from him here "I was on the verge of screaming, I bit my hand" is desperate. At the end of this scene the reader is exhilarated that the narrator has made a very narrow escape. Wells uses metaphor, another one of his literary devices strongly throughout the book. His mix of metaphor and simile enhances tension and the overall climate of terror. Wells, as a socialist, was against Empire building and was therefore not in favour of the British Empire. His theme in the book is comparing the alien invasion with the British Empire. To Wells the alien invasion represents what the British Empire had done to other countries that it had conquered. Now the British Empire was experiencing what they did to other smaller countries. To conclude, Wells creates an atmosphere of terror that leaves the reader filled with revulsion. Wells' perfect blend of description and imagery allows him to create this ambience of terror throughout the book. This is a very powerful book full of suspense and terror. It is very relevant even today, as we live through terrorist attacks on London. ?? ?? ?? ?? Robdeep Sangha 11CC GCSE English Coursework ...read more.

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