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

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS

Book Two: The Earth Under the Martians


Chapter One - Under Foot


Summary


This chapter returns to the perspective of the narrator, who has been hiding out for most of Sunday and Monday in an abandoned house with the curate in order to avoid the Black Smoke. As far as he knows, his wife is still in Leatherhead and now counts him among the dead. The cousin she is staying with is a brave man but slow to recognize danger. Consumed with worry over her safety, he tries to get away from the curate, who is starting to annoy him, finally succeeding by locking himself in a room upstairs. On Sunday evening, there are people in the house next door but later there is no sign of them.

A Martian comes on Monday and uses the high-powered steam to blast away the Black Smoke. The narrator gets provisions ready as he prepares to leave the house and go on to Leatherhead. The curate is unwilling to leave at first but is apparently more scared of staying alone than venturing out with someone, so he goes as well. On the way they see dead men and horses, reminding the narrator of the scene at Pompeii. In Hampton Court they spot a small bit of green vegetation that has survived and, of further comfort, there are deer and people about in Bushey Park.

As the two continue on, they see more people, moving about in search of better housing. There are also the smashed remains of three bicycles, as proof of the flight out of the town. Near Kew, they suddenly find themselves standing quite near to a Martian. They hide out in a shed until twilight, when the narrator feels he must continue on to Leatherhead and the curate unhappily follows after him. They soon see a Martian, busy hunting people down and throwing them into a metal container attached to the machine.


The narrator and curate hide in a ditch until late that night when they cautiously resume traveling. They see the burned bodies of many men, lying near the ruins of guns. Upon reaching Sheen, they break into a house and get water and a hatchet. A little farther on, they go into another house where they find a store of food, including bread, meat, vegetables, and soup, so they eat up. The narrator is in favor of staying here for a bit to build up strength, while the curate is nervous and wants to leave.

Suddenly there is a bright green light and a tremendous crash. In the house, the narrator is thrown into the oven handle and knocked out while objects and parts of the ceiling fall about the floor. The curate, his own face bloody from a cut on his forehead, is putting water on the narrator’s face when he comes to. They hear noises outside and, thinking it is the Martians, remain motionless for hours. When day finally comes, the light reaches them through a triangular gap in the ruins, not through the window. They see a Martian standing guard nearby so they quickly move into the shadows.

The narrator then figures out what happened. The fifth cylinder has landed quite close by them, collapsing part of the house and throwing up a mound of dirt against the window. The two are trapped right by the Martians in what is left of the house. They sit silently, while the noises outside continue, until, awake and hungry, the narrator goes to get food and the curate follows.


Notes


The novel is separated into two books, this chapter being the first of the Book Two. Although only half the cylinders have landed, it seems appropriate to include this in “The Earth Under the Martians.” After telling of the massive flight from London, and now that the narrator and curate are literally almost under one of the cylinders, it is evident that the Martians are exercising a great deal of control over an increasing area of the world.

The three bicycles that stand out to the narrator are just one of the many indications of the change in life that has occurred. Bicycling is a popular leisure activity, especially in Wells time, and the narrator was even learning how to ride one in the beginning of the story. Now the cycles lay in the road, left behind and crushed in the rush to escape the Martians.


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

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