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.