Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Step 1 of 4
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial.
Get instant access to all the benefits of SparkNotes PLUS! Cancel within the first 7 days and you won't be charged. We'll even send you a reminder.
Already have an account? Log in
Create Your Account
Step 2 of 4
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
Choose Your Plan
Step 3 of 4
Add Your Payment Details
Add Your Payment Details
Step 4 of 4
US + tax
You'll be billed only after your free trial ends.
7-day Free Trial
Total due on August 18, 2022
This is not a valid promo code.
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
A thin rod with a round disk, like a mirror, rises out of the pit. As the sun sets, in the twilight the Narrator can only make out shapes of people approaching. A small group, containing Stent, Ogilvy and Henderson, approaches the pit, waving a white flag. There are three puffs of green smoke, a bright flash, and a hissing noise. The Narrator sees one of the large creatures in the pit rise up, and the hissing turns to a hum. The Narrator watches as the surrounding area starts to catch fire, as if an invisible ray is being projected from the pit. The group with the white flag is consumed instantly. The Narrator can see that the invisible ray is starting to move across the surrounding area, setting everything on fire, including houses and trees in the distance. Paralzyed with fear, the Narrator stands still and watches. The beam does not make a full circle, otherwise the Narrator would have been killed. The Narrator runs in terror.
The Martian Heat-Ray can burn anything combustible. It melts lead, shatters glass, and turns water to steam. Forty people have been killed around the pit. Many others are burned from the fire started in the nearby grass and trees. The Narrator suggests that with a parabolic mirror, invisible light must have been concentrated in a beam. More people were burned by the fires before they ran, trampling one another to escape.
The Narrator runs through the trees and collapses near a bridge. After regaining his strength, he approaches a group of people. He is confused and mentally detached from events. He asks the group about what happened on the common, but they dismiss him. They think he is demented when he tries to tell them what happened. The Narrator returns home and tells his wife. He reassures her, and himself, that the Martian creatures are very slow, due to Earth’s stronger gravity. The Narrator admits that he did not foresee that the increased oxygen content in the atmosphere would give the Martians more energy, or that the Martian’s advanced technology would not be limited by their weight and muscles. He believes that an artillery shell into the pit will solve the issue, should it get any worse.
Life continues as normal in the region around Horsell Common. Most of the people who were present have been killed, and those who escaped are treated as if they are deranged. Since Henderson stopped sending updates, the newspaper does not take the story seriously. Anyone else who has tried to approach the pit has been incinerated. A military regiment has been activated, however, and several dozen artillerymen deploy on the edges of the common to investigate. Just after midnight, a second cylinder streaks across the sky.
The following day, the artilleryment surround the Martians at the first crash site. The Narrator travels down to the bridge and talks to a group of artillerymen who have not seen the Martians yet. They question the Narrator about the Martians and then argue amongst themselves about how to deal with them. The Martians have not left their pit and seem to be readying for a battle. The Narrator returns home, where he hears artillery shells thudding at the second Martian crash site. Explosions and gunfire erupt at the first Martian crash site, and several buildings around the Narrator’s home are destroyed. He realizes that the Heat-Ray is within range of his home. He grabs his wife and servant, secures a horse and cart from his neighbor, and rides toward Leatherhead. The hills and buildings are burning behind him as he rides away.
The Narrator travels twelve miles to Leatherhead. He leaves his wife and servant with his cousins and turns back toward his home, so that he can return the horse and cart. He sees a third falling star and knows that it contains more Martians. Late at night, he nears his home. A hailstorm with lightning has started. The Narrator sees two large metal machines rise over the hill. He describes them as a tripod with a large dish at the top. He watches them break through lines of trees like a man walks through reeds. The Narrator tries to turn the horse cart, but instead it tumbles over, killing the horse. He hides as the two large machines pass near him. He finds cover and works his way home in the dark.
The Narrator’s observations of the calculated manner in which the Martians behave illustrate the Martians’ intellectual superiority resulting from their advanced evolution. In contrast to the hysterical and unfocused nature of the crowd, the Martians have a well-thought-out plan and show no fear of humans. Humans’ impulse to flee, fight, or freeze in the face of acute stress is also an evolutionary response, but the Martians’ technologically advanced weaponry allows them to proceed with deliberate and cunning actions. This demonstrates their evolution to a higher level of consciousness where they need not rely solely upon impulse.
The tendency of the townspeople to carry on as usual despite the death and destruction that surrounds them is evidence of humans’ stubborn refusal to yield to reason. Their self-exaltation and lack of preparation make them vulnerable to an attack they cannot fathom simply because they have never considered such a possibility, and even concrete evidence of the fatal outcome of an attack does not weaken their resolve to stay on a foolhardy course. The images of the incinerated bodies of the curious people who surround the site further highlight the deeply ingrained obstinacy in human nature. Despite the Narrator’s eyewitness accounts of invaders with superhuman war tactics, the entrenched beliefs of society prevent those he warns from altering their path towards annihilation.
The Narrator’s state of agitated excitement while hiding from the Martian machines shows the perilous side of human inquisitiveness. The machinery establishes the Martians’ superior technology, and even though the Narrator knows it is dangerous to return to his home, his curiosity overpowers the fear which might provide him with the tools for survival. The hail and lightning create a foreboding backdrop for the horse’s death, which foreshadows the loss of human life.
The Narrator’s attempt to return the horse and cart, even in the face of the unknown, exhibits his interest in upholding his end of the social contract. The fact that he rescues not only his wife but his servant confirms his belief in his responsibility to society in addition to self. The Narrator’s perception of human society’s dominion over the universe drives him to defend human social constructs even as organized society crashes down.
The Narrator’s shifts in mood show the deep connection between emotions and the perception of safety. Being at home momentarily lulls the Narrator into a false sense of safety which allows him to form opinions based on his emotions rather than on reason. He tells himself that Martians cannot be intelligent, despite the clear evidence that they can use their fighting machines to subdue humanity. Just as humans have felt safe on Earth for thousands of years, the comforts of home give the Narrator an over-confident feeling of security that leads him to jump to false conclusions.