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

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS

Chapter Five - The Stillness


Summary


The Martian has left no food or drink in the pantry so the eleventh and twelfth days find the narrator increasingly weak and discouraged. During this time, he hears no noises from the pit and fears for a short time that he has gone deaf. He finally becomes so thirsty that he risks alerting the Martians to his presence and gets some rainwater from the noisy pump. He passes the thirteenth day in a similar manner, drinking occasionally and fitfully thinking of the dead curate.

On the fifteenth day, a dog appears by the opening in the debris. Figuring he will kill the dog for the dual purposes of food and to prevent attracting the Martians, the narrator moves closer. However the dog leaves shortly afterward, returning to his roaming about the pit. The narrator becomes attentive for awhile, and hearing no sound of the Martians, he risks looking out.

There are no Martians in sight and the pit has only the pile of powder for making the aluminum bars and the remains of the victims that were drained, crows now picking about them. Hesitatingly, the narrator clamors out from his hiding place and makes his way to the top of the pit. Though the scene of destroyed buildings and red plants is quite different from his memory of pleasant houses and cool trees, the narrator is content for the moment to take in the blue sky and refreshing air.


Notes


The red plants that stretch across the hole are symbolic to the narrator, with the curate’s death still overwhelming his mind. Since the hole is the narrator’s opening into the world, it can be applied on a larger scale to represent the deaths of those the Martians drained in the pit as well as their victims elsewhere.

The tone is continued when the narrator looks out from the hole and sees the crows picking over the human remains. Throughout the next few chapters, it seems that the only things left in the world are scavengers (for example, the ransacked houses) and reminders of the destruction.



Chapter Six - The Work of Fifteen Days


Summary


As the narrator stands in amazement at the world that has come to look so different after only a few days in the hands of the Martians, he feels at level with the animals for a moment but it passes quickly. He begins walking, setting off through the tall weeds, until he is able to make his way over a six foot wall and get some food out of a garden. This, along with some mushrooms which he later comes across, tide him over for awhile, though he continues to be driven to get food and as far away from the pit as his strength will allow.

Continuing his travel, the narrator notices that the weeds grow prolifically in water, and that this has caused flooding as they choke up the streams. He drinks up the water regardless, and even tastes one of the weeds but finds it unpleasant. He says that eventually bacteria caused a disease that killed the weeds off quickly.

As he goes on, the narrator’s surroundings show more signs of the world as it had been, the abundance of the red weed gradually gives way to the sight of quiet houses. Having seen no Martians or other humans, but only wary dogs and skeletons (he tries to get something off, for food, but there is nothing left on them), he rests.

At nightfall, he resumes walking and comes across some potatoes in a garden, enough to satisfy his hunger for awhile. He sees evidence of the use of the Heat-Ray and everywhere there is silence. The narrator thinks that he is the only one around who had not become a victim to the Martians’ “extermination.” He is horrified at the speed of events, and thought of the Martians off in other places, destroying the world.


Notes


The title of the chapter is somewhat ironic, as what the narrator notices is mostly destruction. There has been no “work” done, like rebuilding houses and gathering forces, only ransacking and flight.

There is something similar to Plato’s cave analogy in this chapter and a few of the preceding. The narrator calls the now-buried house a den and from it he can see very little of the outside world. When he emerges, he stands for a while, stunned in the bright sunlight and the sight of a world different from what his reality had always been.

The weeds continue in this chapter to be a symbol of destruction. The flooding they cause also represents the displacement of life caused by the Martians, shown, for example, in the mass migrations. It is important to note that the term “Titanic” he uses to describe them is in reference to the mythological Titans, not the ship that went on that fatal journey, which was not around at the time Wells was writing. However, the idea of natural selection was known, which Wells use of to explain the earthly plants resistance to the disease that kills off the red weed, demonstrates the scientific side of Wells and his time.


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

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