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The ways in which HG Wells creates atmosphere in The War of the Worlds by close reference to key episodes Assignment

The novel was written by HG Wells and first published in 1898 at the end of the nineteenth century. The feelings of the people around the end of the nineteenth century are similar to what we felt at the end of the twentieth century. Excitement and curiosity about space and space travel. We saw the new century as a time of hope and fear and so did the people at the end of the nineteenth century. Often ideas about the future were expressed through science fiction and generally showed fears towards the future and uncertainty.

The first episode of the novel describes a mysterious cylinder landing from outer space, a crowd begins to gather and a young man is pushed by the frantic crowd on top of the cylinder. In this episode HG Wells creates an atmosphere of alarm, anxiety and revulsion. For example, the man who has been pushed onto the cylinder is clearly afraid, shown by him trying to “scramble out of the hole again” the word scramble suggests a sense of frantic urgency and panic in his actions. The narrator is almost ‘pitched on top of the screw”, as somebody “blundered” against him.

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The clumsy actions mentioned and the danger help create an atmosphere of anxiety and confusion amongst the crowd. The inhuman and unpleasant qualities of the Martians appearance and movement revolt the crowd. The description of the Martians adds to the sense of alarm. HG Wells suggests that the Martians are inhuman as he writes that the Martians had “one might say a face” this seems disgusting to the crowd and them realise that the man they expected to emerge from the cylinder is in-fact a “vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous” creature.

The crowd’s reactions towards the Martians were revulsion from the appearance and alarm and panic for what the Martians may do to them. The crowd’s revulsion of the Martians is shown when the narrator says, “I was overcome with disgust and dread”. The alliteration of ‘d’ emphasizes the heaviness of his revulsion and also reflects his mood of doom. The crowds physical reaction was more dramatic the narrator states, “a sudden chill came over me” the words “sudden” and “chill” emphasizes the quickness of the Martians and how the crowd began “a general movement backwards” away from the Martians.

The Martians made the narrator get a “chill” this is a physical response that comes about when you are scared or petrified. The listing as the Martians begins to come into the narrators sight emphasizes the evil associated with threat and darkness. For example when the Martians appear “then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking-stick coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me – and then another”.

This listing adds to the already dramatic, intense atmosphere. Near the end of the episode there is a list of the Martians appearance as “vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous” this listing builds up detail of the hideous appearance and furthermore the narrators sense of revulsion. Also the alliteration of “disgust and dread” adds to the sense of revulsion towards the Martians. In episode two, the Martians are attacking the humans with heat rays.

The narrator writes the detail of his escape from them. The atmosphere is full of tension and fear we know this as the fear brings the sense of the narrators physical pain agony”, “painfully” and rapidly getting hotter” makes us see the narrators pain. The tension in the atmosphere comes from the uncertainty of the Martians. “I saw them dimly” this suggests that the Martians are hidden and out of sight.

The atmosphere of fear and tension gives way to a feeling of relief, “And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped” this shows the tension has been relieved and a sense of relief is shown due to the narrator surviving the Martians. The writer HG Wells appeals to the senses in his description of the physical pain of the narrator, “breast high in almost boiling water” makes us see the narrator being scalded in water. The atmosphere builds more tension when the narrator is “scalded, half blinded, agonised I staggered” this makes a dramatic and horrific picture.

However the anticipation and tension comes to a climax when “I expected nothing but death”, this shows us the narrator thought he was going to die and then he continues to say “I realised by miracle I had escaped” the atmosphere of tension would now be relief and joy at surviving the Martians. In episode three HG Wells explains the reactions of the humans towards the Martians and the newspaper reports are written. The atmosphere is dramatic from the headlines “Dreadful catastrophe” and London in danger” theses headlines co-operate into a narrative sense of drama and urgency.

People are running down the streets shouting the headlines to get the message across to people who may not already know about the Martians. This shows us a sense of panicking, urgency and a dramatic atmosphere. The writer uses contrasting pairs to reinforce a mood of despair. “… They were not merely a handful of small sluggish creature but that they were minds swaying vast mechanical bodies” the alliteration of the ‘s’ is the sound of the heat rays that are killing the humans and gives a sense of power as most strong words begin with ‘s’.

Another contrasting pair is “heavy losses of soldiers were mentioned but the tone of the despatch was optimistic” this is where the mood and atmosphere begin to lighten. It shows the Martians to be negative but then reverses to show that there is something positive about the Martians, this maybe could be that the Martians are beginning to lose their battle or could be because they are sent from outer space. The pace of this episode then speeds up when ” this was printed in enormous type … so fresh…

Still wet” this shows the newspapers to be printed quickly and reflects events moving on very quickly. Episode four is about the Martians dieing this uses quite scientific terms to describe the deaths of the Martians. The last paragraph of episode four describes how they Martians came to earth and how they are going to die on earth. This reflects the triumphant tone of the humans and a sense of relief as they are not going to kill everybody and that simple bacteria that humans are immune to can kill such technical creatures.

The atmosphere is created of optimism and reflection of the events of the last day, by the way the writer describes the details of how the town has went from devastation to a place of hope and sense of looking forward to normal happenings to return to normal. In conclusion HG Wells creates a sense of many different atmospheres I think he goes into more detail in the atmosphere of tension and fear ot get across the ferocity of Martians. This makes the reader more interested and they feel the tension the Martians bring.

Another atmosphere HG Wells creates is a one of relief and safeness after the Martians have been defeated; it makes you feel better because you know that the Martians are dead but also relieved that they cannot kill any more people. These atmospheres will affect the people of the nineteenth century in good and bad ways. In good ways it will make them see what may happen if Martians actually did land and what they would look like, but bad because it will make them worry about if Martians did land they would kill a lot of people and create atmospheres of tension and anxiety.

I don’t believe the story of the War of the Worlds has the power to create such a fear to people as it may have in the nineteenth century as people in theses days know about space travel. We have had people go into space to see if they could find something in space living, but nothing yet has been found however in the nineteenth century the people then did not know about space travel and did not know a lot of facts about space only fictional tales.

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