| Quote #1
With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. (1.1.1)
Folly in The War of the Worlds isn't just people acting stupidly for no reason. People usually have reasons for why they're acting foolishly. (Bad reasons, of course, but still reasons.) One of the bad reasons people have in this book is their pride and complacency. They think things will continue along as they have been, with them in charge. Wells' narrator will hit this note again and again.
| Quote #2
Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet – it is odd, by-the-bye, that for countless centuries Mars has been the star of war – but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well. (1.1.7)
The War of the Worlds is an old book, so you might've known the plot before you read it. Heck, even from the title you should at least know that there's going to be a war. That's why it's easy for us to treat this like a horror movie, yelling to the characters, "No, stupid, don't go check out the weird noises you've heard upstairs, that's a serial killer!" The narrator makes it easy for us to do this by pointing out a bunch of things that humans didn't figure out in time. For instance, humans saw that Mars changed, but they never realized what those changes meant. You might read that and say, "Oh, you're so stupid." But what about the point about Mars as the planet of war? Should that have been a clue to us? Should we take all mythology seriously?
| Quote #3
I never dreamed of it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of that unerring missile. (1.1.13)
Is this folly here? This passage certainly connects with the complacency angle that the narrator has been noting. (Let's be honest: he's nagging us about this.) But as the narrator points out, no one dreamed of the Martians invading. Was it foolish of humans not to dream of it? Should people go out and prepare for every single crazy event that could happen? Or would that just be another type of foolishness?