Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Foolishness and Folly

By H.G. Wells

Foolishness and Folly

Some War of the Worlds readers argue that the Martians are really dumb for coming to an alien planet (Earth) without minimal safety requirements. Come on, Martians, where are your space suits?

Despite that big oversight, most of the folly in this book is committed by humans. People watched Mars, but never figured out what the flashes of light meant. Humans rush out to see the Martian cylinder and then trample each other when they run away. People try to make contact with the Martians, never thinking they might be dangerous. The examples go on and on.

In The War of the Worlds, folly (and its close relative, pride) is really one of the main reasons why the Martians kick human butt so badly.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Since the narrator is telling his story after it happened, he can fill us in on all the mistakes he made. Why does he do that? Is it foreshadowing? Or is the narrator trying to tell us something about folly?
  2. Are there any positive things we could say about folly in this book? There's a literary tradition of foolish characters accidentally doing the right thing, but is there anything like that in this book? Or is folly just negative and dangerous?
  3. The folly that the narrator talks about most (we think) is a mixture of pride and complacency – people think that things will go on as they have been. Is this an accurate statement about this novel, or are there other types of folly going on here?
  4. Is foolishness widespread or do particular characters act more foolishly than others?

Chew on This

Although folly is a dangerous human trait, Wells shows that the only way to not be foolish is to experience some kind of hardship or tragedy.

In The War of the Worlds, Wells marks all the foolish characters as foolish because the readers could easily agree with them.