Summary of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells |
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Just the same, the narrator works alongside him, while the questions mount in his mind, until the artilleryman decides after a bit to stop. They go out on the roof of the nearby house and survey the scene around them. The artilleryman tells him of a story he heard about a party that had been held when the lights of London came back on. One of the Martian machines watched for some time and then grabbed about 100 drunken Londoners.
Then the two go down into the cellar of the house, where they eat, drink champagne, and smoke cigars. As the night wears on, the narrator begins to realize the extent of the artilleryman’s insanity, especially when they play cards, dividing up London between them. The narrator goes back onto the roof to see the lights of the Martians but instead sees the purple glow given off by the red weed. He reflects with deep regret over the time spent with the artilleryman, who has big dreams but little motivation to fulfill them, and sets his mind to resuming his travels.
That the only trial the narrator had for the death of the curate was in his head adds to the idea that society’s structure has crumbled. The last remnant of justice is in individuals. The idea that the Martians would train men to hunt other men was at first discounted by the narrator but the artilleryman has already threatened him with a cutlass.
Throughout their time together, it becomes clear that the artilleryman is gripped by the idea of a game. Not only does he use the word in talking about how the world order has changed, but he says that it might be possible once the group of underground dwellers is formed, to keep watch on the Martians. Then they can make occasional trips to the surface, to play cricket and such. He is insistent on playing cards while the surrounding world lies in ruins around them. Unable to take even his own plans seriously, the artilleryman has come to see everything as a game, in the face of the Martian domination.
Several parts of this chapter, especially in the comment that the war had taught them to pity those they ruled over, point again to the idea of imperialism. Even the title can be suggestive of the arrival of Europeans in already-occupied lands, though, with the British’s rapid industrialization, the battles between immigrant and native peoples probably seemed at times to be as hopeless as a fight between men and ants. By Wells’ time, the British had come to rule a vast empire, and a frequent theme in Wells’ books is commentary on the problems of his society. He also has the artilleryman insist that the weak of the race should be allowed to die off, at a time when many of the British poor were dying from their horrible living and working conditions.
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McCauley, Kelly. "TheBestNotes on The War of the Worlds".
. 09 May 2017