Summary of War of the Worlds Chapter 9 “The Fighting Begins” for class.
The narrator opens with a note that things are still business-as-usual; the milkman arrives and the trains are running. The milkman states with authority that the Martians “aren’t to be killed … if that can possibly be avoided.” The narrator’s neighbor expresses a similar sentiment stating: “It’s a pity they make themselves so unapproachable … It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing or two,” before making a joke about insurance. The neighbor too mourns Ogilvy.
The narrator takes a walk and explains to a group of unprepared soldiers what they might expect from the Martians. The soldiers joke with each other about trenches, calling the Martians “Octopuses,” and there is a reference to Jesus (“fishers of men”) before the Martians are called “beasts.” These two comments in rapid succession give the impression that this is a Biblical reference to God giving man dominion over the animals, which echoes the first chapter’s statement that the Martians see us as we see the “beasts” of the forest.
The narrator then walks on to get papers and hears from the tobacconist, Marshall, that his son is among the dead (Marshall’s not the narrator’s). The soldiers have made the people at Horsell evacuate their houses. The narrator calls the day “hot and dull,” this is the proverbial calm before the storm, and he critiques the inaccuracy of the newspapers that he’s bought.
The Martians continue to work in the pit and there are attempts to signal to them, explaining that the Martians take “as much notice of such advances as we should of the lowing of a cow,” again paralleling the “beasts” dynamic that the narrative has been establishing. At this, the halfway point in the chapter, the narrator confesses to becoming “excited” as he imagines defeating the invaders.
At 3 PM, an hour after lunch, the shelling of the second cylinder begins, as they hope to destroy it before it opens, but proper equipment (a field gun) doesn’t arrive until 5 PM. An hour later (6 PM) as the narrator and his wife are having tea the heat ray destroys part of a church, sets trees on fire, and cracks one of their chimneys. At this point they realize that they are in range of the heat ray “now that the college was cleared out of the way.” Suddenly terrified they realize that they need to leave their house immediately. The narrator decides that they need to evacuate to his wife’s cousin’s house in Leatherhead.
The narrator leaves his house to find transportation, ominously noting that the sun seems “blood red” in color. He goes to the Spotted Dog and gives the landlord 2 pounds (twice his normal fee, the equivalent to $400 USD today) to rent his horse and dog cart, promising to return it by midnight. He notes that he does not think to tell the landlord to evacuate. Note this for later on. He leaves the cart with his wife and their servant and, as he is gathering valuables, he gets an evacuation order.
The narrator checks on his neighbor to confirm that he is gone, which he is, before leaving himself. As the chapter ends he “slashes” the whip down on the horse and they speed ahead of the flood of evacuating people.