Summary of War of the Worlds Chapter 8 “Friday Night” for class.
The narrator begins the chapter with more foreshadowing, stating that the “dovetailing” of regular life with the Martian invasion sets off a “series of events that was to topple that social order headlong.” The paper wires Henderson for more information, but the man delivering the wire is killed, and receiving no news, the paper decides not to print anything. There is the implication that peace is linked to ignorance, again foreshadowing the inter-human violence that will begin soon enough.
The narrator notes that the trains are still running – the trains are an important symbol within the text – and while people talk of the “men from Mars” they “caused no more disturbance than drunkards might have done.” When most people look toward Horsell common and see smoke they assume it’s just a fire, whereas villas on the Woking border are burning and people are “awake till dawn.” There is a NIMBY* attitude expressed in these passages.
Crowds are gathering, but those who advanced toward the pit at night do not return. On the ground “charred bodies lay about on it all night under the stars, and all the next day” while a “hammering” noise can be heard from the pit. The word “star(s)” appears several times in this short chapter and is worth noting.
The ship (or “cylinder”) receives an important description near the end of this short chapter: “sticking into the skin of our old planet Earth like a poisoned dart, was this cylinder. But the poison was scarcely working yet.” This is both the figurative poison of the invasion that will bring death both directly as the Martians fan out and indirectly as people turn on each other, and the poisonous black smoke that the Martians launch at us like mustard gas, ie: in canisters. (A prototype of mustard gas was in existence as early as 1822 though it was not modernized or mass-manufactured until nearly a century later, still Wells could have had knowledge of it.)
A company of soldiers is deployed and, shortly after midnight, “a star fall[s] from heaven,” marking the arrival of the second cylinder. We are to understand, far before the characters do, that the Martian “reinforcements” have arrived and we, having failed to act in time, are now fatally compromised.
* NIMBY: Not in my back yard aka if it’s not my problem then it’s not my problem.