Book One: Chapters 11–14

Summary: Chapter 11, At the Window

The Narrator goes to the window in his study and looks out toward Horsell Common. He sees large shapes moving back and forth in the dark near the pit. The Narrator wonders whether the large machines are intelligent or are piloted by the Martians. All of the surrounding landscape is burnt and destroyed, including a train. He sees an artilleryman creeping across his lawn and invites him inside. The artilleryman tells the Narrator how his crew and their artillery guns were destroyed instantly from the Martian’s Heat-Ray. The Narrator finds food for the artilleryman and watches from his window again. He watches three of the large vehicles near the pit survey the area.

Summary: Chapter 12, What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton

At dawn, the Narrator and the artilleryman pack some food and leave the house. The Narrator wants to return to his wife and leave the country, but the Third Cylinder is between him and Leatherhead. He agrees to travel with the artilleryman and make a detour to reach Leatherhead. The two meet several mounted Hussars and see several more artillery emplacements. Some distance from Horsell Commons, the Narrator finds that the citizens who are being evacuated do not understand the seriousness of the problem. He tells them that “Death is coming!” At Shepperton Lock, where the Wey and Thames rivers join, another battle begins. Five of the large tripod vehicles descend upon the fleeing people. A line of artillery guns are able to bring down one of the large vehicles, destroying the cowl at the top (which the Narrator presumes is the cockpit). The Narrator runs into the river to avoid the ensuing Heat-Rays that vaporize the surrounding area. He watches as four of the vehicles carry away the one that was partially destroyed. He says that it is a miracle that he escaped.

Summary: Chapter 13, How I Fell in with the Curate

The Narrator travels farther from Horsell Common. Cylinders streak the sky and arrive every twenty-four hours. Artillery guns are placed around the destroyed area and scouts are deployed with heliographs (signaling devices). Only one large vehicle remains active, guarding the pit of the first cylinder. The remaining aliens appear to be working on something under a pillar of dense green smoke. The Narrator, exhausted and burned from his encounter, comes across a curate. The curate is raving about the end of days. The Narrator reassures him that the Martians are not invulnerable but warns that the two of them must retreat farther north to London.

Summary: Chapter 14, In London

The Narrator describes his brother’s experience in London. His brother initially hears about the first cylinder, but the initial reports do not make it out to be dangerous. When he tries to travel, he finds that the railway system has been temporarily shut down. Most people do not suspect the Martians as the reason. Refugees from Walton and Weybridge keep arriving, but no one has any information on the actual Martians. Several days later, the Narrator’s brother reads a newspaper story describing the Martians as “vast spider-like machines, nearly a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express train, and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat.” The tone is optimistic, stating that the Martians have been forced to retreat after one of them was defeated. He learns that the area around the Narrator’s home has been entirely destroyed. The next day, the Narrator’s brother sees that London is in a panic. Police are going door to door and telling everyone to evacuate. “The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of black and poisonous vapor by means of rockets.” The Narrator’s brother puts all of his available money in his pockets and leaves his home.

Analysis: Book One: Chapters 11–14

The choices that the Narrator makes after he meets the soldier show that he finally his comprehends the situation in full and will use reason to assess the best path for survival. Unlike his foolhardy errand to return the horse and cart, he processes the soldier’s factual observations in order to make an informed decision about his next steps instead of making emotion-based assumptions about the Martians’ capabilities. His comprehension of the situation also leads him to warn the other citizens being evacuated, and even though his warnings fall on deaf ears, he continues his call and also seeks to reassure the curate.

While the curate’s perception of the current threat is more extreme than the Narrator’s, the Narrator’s attempts to counter his concerns with reason demonstrate that both of them are men of faith in their own way. The curate’s belief that the calamity should bypass him because he is a man of God runs counter to the thinking of the scientific and philosophical Narrator. The Narrator attempts to help the curate through this crisis, however, by standardizing the disaster for him. Humans have endured all kinds of catastrophes throughout history, and the Narrator looks at the Martian invasion as another situation to overcome. The Narrator demonstrates his faith in humanity in a more measured way than the curate demonstrates his faith in God, but the Narrator’s attempts to help show he has faith that the curate will ultimately listen to reason.

The heliographs symbolize the humans’ misplaced faith in the military. The fact they believe the military can use such a simple device to fight the advanced technology of the Martians shows that humans are connected to the idea that the military is omnipotent. Because the soldiers are fellow humans, the civilians believe they are superior to the Martians, and that their technology can subdue violent assaults, even the heliographs are almost comical in comparison to the Martians’ fighting machines.

The Narrator’s description of his brother’s experience in London highlights that even though human communication systems are deeply flawed, newspapers are still an important aspect of society’s ability to function. Reporters must rely heavily on second-hand information via word of mouth, which takes a long time to gather and is often unreliable. Readers must wait until newspapers are printed and distributed, a cumbersome process that ensures that citizens receive news no more than once or twice per day. The greed that leads publishers to print sensational stories to sell more newspapers trickles down to reporters who scramble to find information worthy of the front page, and to editors who tweak the story so that it resonates with the largest number of people. Even though the newspapers spread misinformation, the Narrator’s brother consults a wide variety of them, which makes it clear that he would know nothing about the invasion if not for the papers. This highlights the importance of information dissemination to human society.