Tag Archives: war of the worlds

War of the Worlds Summary Ch. 11

Summary of War of the Worlds Chapter 11 “At the Window” for class.

The chapter opens with the narrator reminding us of the Hedonic Treadmill from Ch. 7 and calls own his movements “mechanical.” He changes out of his wet clothes and goes up to his study, professing not to know why. The scene mirrors an earlier one when he is in his study the night of the first “falling star;” now the mask of innocence has dropped. The thunderstorm is over but the sky is still red with “grotesque” shapes of the tripods moving in silhouette, though he cannot tell what they are doing. The narrator notes the fires, stating that a “resinous tang of burning was in the air.”

The narrator looks out the window toward the train station and notices a “black heap” which he cannot process, only to realize that “this was a wrecked train, the fore part smashed and on fire, the hinder carriages still upon the rails.” Again, any mention of trains is significant as they have come to symbolize the structure of civilization, possibly its ability to “move forward.”

He begins to come to terms with the fact that the “sluggish” Martians he saw in the pit are piloting the tripods and makes another textual connection between animal, man, and Martian, stating: “I began to compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time in my life how an ironclad or a steam engine would seem to an intelligent lower animal.”

The artilleryman enters the narrative, looking for shelter and being invited into the house by the narrator. The soldier confesses that they have been “wiped out” and, after taking a drink of whiskey, begins to “sob and weep like a little boy.” Once he has calmed down he recounts the Martians moving to the second cylinder under a “metal shield,” that would later become a tripod. The soldier’s horse trips (in a rabbit role) and falls onto him as the heat ray hits the field and chars every living thing around him.

As the second tripod stands up the artilleryman abandons his hiding place under the dead horse. He then sees a tripod “pursue a man, catch him up in one of its steely tentacles, and knock his head against the trunk of a pine tree,” this is likely the innkeeper. Finally calm enough to reveal that he hasn’t eaten, the narrator gives the artilleryman some food, and they eat in the dark to avoid attracting the Martians.

A noise like something running across the lawn startles them so they go upstairs to the study again and see “three of the metallic giants” and “green smoke.” At dawn the narrator sees “pillars of fire” and “bloodshot smoke” over Chobham.

War of the Worlds Summary Ch. 10

Summary of War of the Worlds Chapter 10 “In the Storm” for class.

Chapter 10 opens with the narrator and his wife reaching Leatherhead from Maybury Hill at 9 PM the same night as Chapter 9. His wife is silent through the ride and wants him to stay in Leatherhead, but he promised the innkeeper that he would return his horse and cart, and he intends to do so.

The narrator has a feeling that he compares to “war fever” and expresses a desire to “be at the death” of that Martians. He starts back at 11 PM and his wife wishes him off, but vanishes from the doorway when he get onto the cart. He feels depressed momentarily, but then he anticipates the Martians again and his spirits rally. He goes back a different way he came, going through Ockham and sees, on the “western horizon a blood-red glow.” It is clouds of a “thunderstorm mingled … with masses of black and red smoke.”

He arrives back at Maybury as the clock strikes midnight and sees “tree-tops and roofs black and sharp against the red” of the sky. A green glow announces the arrival of the third cylinder, which he calls “the third falling star.” A lightning strike follows shortly after that startles his horse, which bolts, surrounded by more strikes and a light hail. As he drives down the hill he sees “something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill” (this is the first appearance of a tripod).

Peppered by lightning flashes, which creates the illusion of stop-motion, he sees the first tripod and attempts to explain it: “A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.” As it crashes through trees that narrator realizes that he is “galloping hard to meet it” as a second tripod appears. Upon seeing it he panics and jerks the horse’s head which knocks over the horse and cart, killing the horse instantly (broken neck). The narrator laments the “poor brute” as the “colossal mechanism” walks past him.

As the tripod passes the narrator details the limbs as prehensile (they are holding a tree), confirms that it is made of metal, and notes “puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs.” It also calls to another tripod, drowning out the thunder, before the sky goes dark, and the narrator cannot see them anymore. In a puddle with hail coming down, the narrator decides to make for “a little one-roomed squatter’s hut,” but no one is home so he makes his way back to his own home.

As the narrator runs home “in the darkness a man blundered into me and sent me reeling back,” he cries out in terror, but cannot collect himself enough to speak with him. As he carries on he “stumbled upon something soft” which he realizes is a man. In the darkness the narrator waits for another flash of lightning, which reveals that he is dead, “his head was bent under his body, and he lay crumpled up close to the fence, as though he had been flung violently against it.” The tripods have likely killed him, though the reader may not have realized this yet. As the narrator listens for a heartbeat a third flash of lightning shows that this is the “landlord of the Spotted Dog” from whom he had rented the horse and cart.

The end of the chapter finds the narrator reaching his own home and locking himself in, after which he states: “I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering violently.”

War of the Worlds Summary Ch. 9

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.

War of the Worlds Summary Ch. 8

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.