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The artilleryman personifies the fragility of the human mind in times of terror alongside the tenacity of humans to stay alive. When the Narrator first encounters him, he is quickly reduced to sobs before he can tell the Narrator how the Martians wiped out his unit. He survives by pure luck, but his military training soon kicks in once he has rested and eaten, and he makes tactical decisions that benefit himself and the Narrator. He is eager to rejoin his battery and continue the fight against the Martians, and like the Narrator, his motivation is survival, although he uses different tactics to achieve this goal.
As a soldier, the artilleryman also represents the English military as a whole, and this military dismisses the threat and therefore is unprepared to fight the Martians. When the Narrator meets the artilleryman a second time, he expresses his changed belief that humanity is beaten. He believes that the Martians will destroy everything useful to humans and will then choose the strongest among them as food sources. He still wants to live, however, and his plan to gather the strongest survivors together reveals a sinister side to both his ideas about the superiority of the human race and his perception of his place at the top of its hierarchy. The stress and fear of the situation ultimately drive him to pursue more hedonistic activities.