The War of the Worlds

Physical location

In 1895 Wells was an established writer and he married his second wife, Catherine Robbins, moving with her to the town of Woking in Surrey. Here he spent his mornings walking or cycling in the surrounding countryside, and his afternoons writing. The original idea for The War of the Worlds came from his brother during one of these walks, pondering on what it might be like if alien beings were suddenly to descend on the scene and start attacking its inhabitants.[17]

Much of The War of the Worlds takes place around Woking and the surrounding area. The initial landing site of the Martian invasion force, Horsell Common, was an open area close to Wells's home. In the preface to the Atlantic edition of the novel he wrote of his pleasure in riding a bicycle around the area, imagining the destruction of cottages and houses he saw, by the Martian heat-ray or their red weed.[10] While writing the novel, Wells enjoyed shocking his friends by revealing details of the story, and how it was bringing total destruction to parts of the South London landscape that were familiar to them. The characters of the artilleryman, the curate, and the brother medical student were also based on acquaintances in Woking and Surrey.[18]

Wells wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Healey about his choice of locations: "I'm doing the dearest little serial for Pearson's new magazine, in which I completely wreck and sack Woking -- killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways -- then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity."[19]

In the present day a 7 metre (23 feet) high sculpture of a tripod fighting machine, entitled 'The Martian', based on the description in The War of the Worlds, stands in Crown Passage close to the local railway station in Woking, designed and constructed by artist Michael Condron.[20]

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