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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Book One: The Coming of the Martians
Chapter Eight (Friday Night)
It was a Friday night like any other, something the narrator finds remarkable. No one outside a five mile radius, except relations of those killed by the Heat-Ray, was affected at all by the Martians. The excited shouts of news boys seemed to decline in urgency when heard from railway stations of bustling people going about their business. In fact, most of the people within the radius were still doing everyday things.
But there were some for whom the night was a sleepless one. Those who had houses that backed the common stayed awake. The Martians themselves were up the whole time, busy working on their machines. Every so often, the light beam would sweep the area around the pit, followed shortly by the Heat-Ray, to take care of those few people who ventured too close.
By this time, a concerned military was becoming involved. Of the soldiers already deployed, one, a Major Eden, was missing. More troops are headed to the area to provide reinforcements.
Right after midnight, the constant crowd that had gathered saw the second cylinder fall to the Earth.
The narrator points out the irony in that, on the brink of their collapse, the old habits of the social order are as strong as ever. It is the night before great change is about to occur, yet there are few signs of its coming. He says that the Martians’ arrival was mentioned, but without the magnitude of concern that would have come from news of an ultimatum to Germany. It is important to note that this book was written in 1898, years before the World Wars, which would match Britain against Germany. This is part of the ability of Wells, not to necessarily predict the future, but to take notice of the potential problems that society will face long before they fully develop.
The “red glow” and slight trail of smoke that the people on the train view out of their windows comes from the smoldering remains of the first buildings to feel the power of the Heat-Ray. As foreshadowing though, it also shows the coming destruction. The redness indicates bloodshed and the way that the smoke stretches across the night sky tells of how the stars, previously seen as images of hope and constancy, will become symbols of the ruin that has come to Earth.
Important similes in this chapter include the comparison of the cylinder to a poisoned dart and the descent of the second cylinder to both summer lighting and the fall of a star from heaven. As seen in the continuation of commonplace activities, the poison has yet to spread, but is ready to do just that. As for summer lightning, it is a similar image; it strikes in a single place but can easily spread to its surroundings through wildfires. The meaning behind the falling star is stated in the preceding paragraph.