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Summary of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS

Chapter Ten - In the Storm


Summary


After arriving in Leatherhead around 9:00 pm and eating supper, the narrator is anxious to return to the scene of the action. Although his wife is quiet and grave for most of the evening, she does not try to dissuade him from keeping his promise to the innkeeper to have the cart back that night. He sets off eagerly at about 11:00 pm, taking a route through Ockham. That night, it is a town of silent houses, with only a small, quiet group of people out. He gets back to Maybury Hill just slightly after midnight.

Against the backdrop of the surmounting storm, the narrator sees a third cylinder fall to Earth. As flashes of lightning illuminate the sky, his horse takes off down the hill, but he is still able to make out the Martians’ new machine. It is a metal tripod that stands higher than several houses. At the top is a sort of head that turns about, as if planning out a path, and the steel that hangs down in tentacle-like fashion is easily taking care of any trees in the way. A green smoke is emitted from its joints.

Realizing that the machine is headed his way, the narrator panics and pulls the reins to the right so hard that the horse falls, breaking its neck. The cart overturns, landing him in a large puddle of water. The machine passes by, meeting up with the other one at the site of the newly fallen third cylinder.

Though the lightning has become intermittent, the hail is coming down heavily.

He gets no answer at a nearby small house, and fails to think then of escaping back to Leatherhead, and so the narrator starts out on the difficult walk to his house. After crawling along in a ditch and using trees as cover, he struggles out onto a lane. A man runs into him, but is too scared to do anything but scream and run off.

The storm is strong, so the narrator begins using a fence as a guide and support. His foot catches something, and by the brief flashes of lightning, he recognizes the dead body of the man whom he had borrowed the dog cart from, the landlord of the Spotted Dog.

Finally arriving home, the narrator goes inside, locks the door, and sits at the bottom of the staircase, cold and distraught.


Notes


It is important to recognize how closely the weather parallels the events concerning the Martians. While the narrator is getting away from them, it is a pleasant evening. By the time he sets out to return the cart, a storm is brewing. Right after the fall of the third cylinder, the first lightning cracks against the sky. The storm bursts as the narrator arrives back in town.

Also, it is possible that the Martians’ emergence from the pit at night is significant, showing the change in human mentality. The narrator himself feels the sort of excitement that comes about in times of war, when life is reduced to a more basic form. The contrasting darkness of the night and the bright flashes of lightning, which Wells spends some time on, could represent how the narrator’s world is becoming black and white, a matter purely of who survives and who does not.



Chapter Eleven - At the Window


Summary


Becoming aware that his clothes and himself are still dripping wet from both falling into the puddle and walking around while it hailed, the narrator takes a drink of whiskey and changes his clothes.

He goes upstairs to his study, where a window was left open. To one side, he is able to see the scorched trees around Byfleet Courses; to the other, a wrecked train and some houses with a few dying fires still among them. No people are visible, except for a few black images framed by the light of the train station. There are now three of the large metal machines, however, and all are moving busily about the pit. The narrator wonders if it is a similar experience to what animals think when they see a train.

Eager for some human company, he jumps at the chance when a soldier, looking for shelter, enters his garden. The narrator lets him in and offers him a drink of whiskey. Then the soldier puts his head down and begins to cry. When he regains enough control, he starts to tell his story.

The soldier was an artillery driver that came on the scene around 7:00 pm. When the first of the Martians’ new machines rose out of the pit, his horse tripped and a gun went off, blowing up the ammunition and leaving him pinned to the ground. He stayed hidden under the horse while the machine blasted away with the Heat-Ray. When nearly everything was destroyed, it turned the weapon off and met up with the rising second machine.

He then decides to move, but with great caution. The people he sees are trying to hide and escape amidst burning ruins. One especially unfortunate man was grabbed by one of the machines and thrown against a tree. The soldier is making his way in the direction of London when the narrator took him in.

After eating and finishing the conversation, both men are calmer. As the narrator and soldier go upstairs and look out the window, dawn is breaking on a landscape of ruins and smoke. There are only a few objects that have survived the night of destruction. By the pit, stand the three Martian machines.


Notes


One of the Martians’ tripod machines was referred to as a Titan. In mythology, the Titans were giants of great strength that ruled the world before the Olympians, headed by Zeus, overthrew them. Of further comparison, the Titans were said to be children of Heaven (as well as Earth).


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