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Free Booknotes Summary for The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells-Free Study Guide

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LITERARY ELEMENTS


SETTING


Most of the story takes place in the small towns found in the countryside of England. The narrator’s home is in Woking, and the first few chapters mostly take place here. He then takes his wife to Leatherhead to save her from the Martians. In his own attempts to escape them, he makes his way through a number of towns including Weybridge and Shepperton (the scene of a Martian attack), Sheen (where the fifth cylinder landed, burying the house with the narrator and curate), and Putney Hill (the location of the artilleryman). London is also an important place in the book. The story of the narrator’s brother tells of the mass flight out of that city and the narrator himself ends up there in the end of the book, where he finds the Martians dead of disease.

As the Martians move from place to place, the imagery changes drastically. In the beginning, the Earth looks as one would expect; in the end, dead and dying people are in the roads, buildings lay in ruins, and black dust and red weeds cover everything.

LIST OF CHARACTERS


Major Characters


Narrator
A philosopher by occupation, his writing is interrupted by the arrival of the Martians, of which he is one of the first to know. He survives a number of close calls but lives past the end of the invasion. With the exception of a few days insanity after finding the dead Martians, the narrator is a character with a strong grip on reality, though his reality becomes one he never thought possible. With determination, good judgment, and a will to live, he comes out of the ordeal in a much better state than many others.


Martians
A species that has developed great mental, and along with it, technical abilities in order to escape their planet, which is rapidly becoming uninhabitable. Physically, they resemble an octopus, with their many tentacles and a head that stands without a body, and they feed by injecting the blood from a live organism into themselves. They show no signs of mercy when they arrive on Earth, their intent being conquest rather than compromise. They also show signs of recent awareness of microorganisms, and are killed by an earthly bacteria.

Artilleryman
After escaping a Martian’s Heat-Ray as a result of his horse tripping, he wanders into the garden of the narrator, who takes him in. When they set off the next day, the artilleryman demonstrates a great sense of logic and caution, insisting on taking provisions and taking care to avoid the third cylinder. He joins back up with the military and is not heard from again until the narrator encounters him on Putney Hill. There it is clear that he has undergone quite a mental change. The former artilleryman has formed big, unrealistic plans while becoming content to drink and play games. The narrator leaves him shortly and his eventual fate is unknown.

Curate
The representative of religion, who is not shown in a very positive light. He becomes extremely distraught and senseless after seeing the destruction of his church and all of Weybridge. He is unwilling to part with the narrator, though their two personalities are completely incompatible. When they become trapped in the house together, the curate does not heed the need to ration or keep quiet. The narrator ends up hitting him in the head with a meat chopper in order to avoid attracting the Martians’ attention. It is too late for this, and when one comes to investigate, it pulls out the curate’s body.

Brother
A medical student whose tale is related by the narrator in order to show what went on in London. After fleeing London among the crowds in the early morning hours, he meets up with the wife and sister of George Elphinstone and travels with them. Like the narrator, he is also logical with good sense, as he demonstrates throughout their trip (particularly when he attempts to stop the man who will be killed picking up money) to the Thames to secure passage out of Britain.

Minor Characters


Wife
She affects the plot more through providing a direction and motivation to the narrator’s actions rather than through her own actions. She is concerned from the narrator’s first recounting of the Martians about the dinner table and is still pale with concern when she and the narrator part in Leatherhead. He misses and thinks of her a lot, and his plans center around tracking her down. Both, having had the same desire to return home, however hopeless, they are reunited in the end.

Ogilvy
The astronomer who is one of the few to take an interest in the Martians from the start. He sets off to find the fallen star (which was actually the first cylinder, but he is slow to accept this), and when he does, he tells Henderson, starting the spread of news. He is among the group of men attempting to uncover the cylinder and shortly afterward, a member of the failed and burned Deputation.

Henderson
A London journalist, who is the first to accept Ogilvy’s news of the landed cylinder. He goes with him to see and sends out the news when he returns. He also participates in the excavation efforts and the Deputation.

Landlord
He is in a similar situation to the wife, in that he is not really a developed character but affects the plot through his affect on the narrator. He lends the narrator his dog cart since he fails to understand the magnitude of the Martian threat. On his return home after the Martian defeat, the narrator needs time to reflect on the scene of the broken dog cart and news of the landlord’s burial.

Wife and Sister of George Elphinstone
The two women who travel with the narrator’s brother. The wife is passive and her thoughts concern the fate of her husband almost exclusively. The sister is much more up to the situation, from coming back with a revolver to scare off the men to persuading her sister-in-law to get on the steamer.

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