Summary of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells |
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The body of the wealthy man fighting in vain for his life against the night sky is reminiscent of the shopkeeper struggling to get out of the pit in the beginning of the story. First of all, the time of day is symbolic; whereas the shopkeeper was at sunset (right at the advent of the war), the wealthy man was at night (in the middle of the war). Secondly, the social status of the victims is important. As the war goes on, those of higher, and of all, ranks in society are feeling the effects. It is a similar case to the buildings, when originally the targets were individual houses, and now institutions like schools and churches are becoming ruins.
The narrator is staring out the makeshift window on the sixth day when he notices the curious absence of the curate, who was usually close by waiting for his turn. Finding him in the scullery drinking, the narrator becomes insistent on the need to ration, dividing the food up so it will last ten more days.
Through occasional physical fighting and constant watching, the narrator manages to keep the curate under some control. However, the curate’s mental stability has been deteriorating since he first encountered the Martians and has become insane. By the eighth day, he is speaking out loud of his regret over his sins and his want of more food. For the latter, he threatens the narrator that he will become loud enough to blow their cover with the Martians. Though the narrator does not give in, the curate does not carry out his threat, but that day and the next his speech gradually gets louder.
When the curate becomes so insane that he starts shouting, the narrator hits him over the head with the butt of a meat chopper, knocking him unconscious, possibly killing him. It was too late to prevent the Martians from hearing though.
One of the machines stuck a tentacle in through the gap that had served as a window. It pulls the still body of the curate out into the open and examines it. The narrator is unsure whether the Martian had seen him when it approached or is able to figure out his presence from the curate’s injury. Despite being paralyzed, and then trembling, with fear, the narrator manages to get into the coal cellar. He closes the door and hides among the firewood and coal.
At one point the door to the cellar is opened and an investigating tentacle reaches about, even touching the heel of the narrator’s boot. After some long, tense moments when the narrator is uncertain if it is still there, and not until after cleaning out the pantry, the tentacle withdraws for good. But the narrator remains where he is for another day, finally emerging on the eleventh day.
There is a reference made to Briareus, a somewhat obscure figure from Greek mythology who had 100 hands and 50 heads. He is mentioned in connection with the handling machine that the Martian is in.
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McCauley, Kelly. "TheBestNotes on The War of the Worlds".
. 09 May 2017