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The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells-Free BookNotes

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS

 

Chapter Two - The Falling Stars


Summary


In Chapter Two, the Martian landing takes place and the news of it begins to spread. The narrator himself misses the craft streaking across the sky, but many other people see it, though they mistake it for a falling star. Early the next morning, Ogilvy starts out and finds the “meteorite” (as he at first supposes it is) near the sand pits in Horsell Common. Its impact on Earth has made a big hole and left the Thing itself mostly covered in sand. From what could be seen though, Ogilvy notes that it looked like a huge cylinder with a 30 yard diameter. He could hear a “stirring noise” coming from within it but it is too hot from its descent through the atmosphere for him to draw nearer.

“Then suddenly he noticed with a start that some of the grey clinker, the ashy incrustation that covered the meteorite, was falling off the circular edge of the end.” As he noticed this was due to it rotating very slowly, (think of the opening of a submarine hatch after it surfaces), he grasps that the Thing was not a meteorite at all, but artificial, hollow, and with something alive inside. The flashes from Mars come to his mind and he makes the connection.

Excited, Ogilvy takes off for the nearest town, Woking. Although taken for crazy by the first two men he tells, he manages to get his story out to Henderson, a journalist, who quickly follows him back to the pit.

The cylinder is silent now, and, after hitting it with a stick provokes no response, they hurry back to town, believing whatever was inside to be dead. As the news spread, many, including the narrator, head off “to see the ‘dead men from Mars.’”


Notes


Additional foreshadowing is in this chapter, telling of the destruction that the Martians will bring to Earth. There were no birds or breeze the morning Ogilvy discovered the cylinder, much like the calm before a storm. Its landing had made a huge hole, and smashed the tree that had been standing there to pieces.

The chapter also says something of human behavior. The narrator does not see the Thing fall to Earth, though it would certainly have been “visible to [him] had [he] only looked up as it passed.” Few took interest in what they believed to be a falling star; yet, by the end of the chapter, they are hurrying off to see the “dead men.”



Chapter Three - On Horsell Common


Summary


The narrator arrives at the scene of the crash landing to find Henderson and Ogilvy gone, having left to go to breakfast. A small group has gathered in their place, whose members also come and go. Some of the boys are throwing stones at the object but the narrator makes them stop.

Standing about the growing crowd, the narrator ponders that it is likely the cylinder did indeed come from Mars, but thinks it might contain a manuscript, rather than a living creature. Growing bored with the cylinder’s lack of movement, he goes home, only to return that afternoon.

The reports in the newspapers have caused a considerable number of people to gather about the site. Excavation is going on inside the pit by a small group of men, including Henderson and Ogilvy. So far, a lot of the cylinder has been unearthed but the one end is still in the ground and the top is on tight. Ogilvy asks the narrator to go see Lord Hilton, who owns the land, and request permission to keep the people out of the way, as they are hindering the excavators’ work. He heads off to do so, and plans to meet Lord Hilton when he comes in on the 6:00 train.


Notes


This chapter continues to demonstrate the remarkably short attention spans of the observers. There are a number of those in the crowd that leave after only a brief while, yet the cylinder is from another planet and unlike anything humans have ever seen before. The narrator himself considers the possibilities of its contents and then grows impatient and wanders home.

The boys throwing stones is also a critical look at humanity. Not only are their actions pretty inappropriate, but it shows a contrast between the sophisticated machinery from Mars and the primitive actions of those on Earth.

The irony in the excavations is that the men are essentially aiding in their own demise, helping clear off what will turn out to be a dangerous and hostile enemy. They are concerned with the construction of a railing, holding the people back, yet the craft from Mars is what they really need protection from.


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