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The Narrator travels through London. Parts of the city are covered in bodies and black dust, while others remain more intact. He hears a strange, howling sound in the distance and decides to investigate. Traveling past Hyde Park toward Regent’s Park, he sees one of the Martian vehicles lying motionless. He finds several dead Martians along the way and follows the noise until it stops. He comes to the central base of the Martians in London and sees overturned war machines and dead Martian bodies being eaten by dogs and birds. Later, he would learn that the Martians were killed by bacteria that humans have become immune to over many generations. He believes that society will rebuild.
Large numbers of people return to London. A helpful family has taken in the Narrator, who they found wandering and confused. They tell him that Leatherhead was destroyed by Martians. He decides that he wants to see what has happened to his home. Against the family’s recommendation, the Narrator departs. He finds that the trains are running again. From a train window, he watches the destroyed landscape pass by. His home is desolate, just as he and the artilleryman had left it. While walking through his house, the Narrator hears a voice. He runs to the French window and finds that his wife and cousin are there also.
In the aftermath of the invasion, the Narrator states, all the Martian bodies that were examined contained bacteria only from Earth. The composition of the black vapor is not discovered. The inner-workings of the Heat-Ray are still a mystery. The Narrator believes that if the Martians return, Earth will be more prepared. Humans will not allow the Martians to assemble their war machines so easily and will attack as soon as any cylinders arrive. He also notes that it is likely that the Martians have also sent cylinders to Venus. The attack has changed the outlook of humans, knowing that threatening beings live on other planets. It has also unified humanity in an effort to be better prepared. The events of the attack, the bodies, and the ruined landscape still haunt the Narrator.
The speed with which the Martians go through England’s available resources suggests that they do not have a solid grasp of the notion of sustainability. This shows a surprising lack of comprehension given the intelligence that the Martians’ have previously demonstrated, especially considering that the depletion of their resources was the impetus for their invasion of Earth. While the Martians possess the capacity for forethought and the technology to take over Earth, it is nonetheless impossible for even these advanced beings to plan for every possible outcome. In addition, the fact that this is their initial voyage to Earth would make it difficult to assess how long they can sustain themselves physiologically using the resources at hand.
The Narrator’s time in the dead city illustrates the haunting effect of what being alone and facing the unknown has on the human psyche. The eerie noise he hears adds to the otherworldliness of this empty place, and even though the Narrator is in familiar territory, the noise serves as a tangible reminder that he is facing the unknown once again. The Narrator must deduce for himself the events that led up to the wreckage, as the once mundane act of picking up a newspaper is no longer an option. He ultimately disconnects from reality as a way of surviving his utter loneliness and devastation.
The fact that bacteria is the entity that deals a fatal blow to the Martians illustrates the fragility of life on Earth. In an ultimate twist of irony, this invisible organism serves as David to the Martians’ Goliath and accomplishes what the full force of the English army could not. The Martians’ weapons are superior to those of the humans, as is their ability to plan and adapt, but in the end, neither physical might nor intellectual prowess is the deciding factor in who will succeed. As one of the oldest organisms on Earth, only bacteria have sufficiently evolved enough to survive external foes.
The unanswered questions about the Martians’ technology and the speculation that the Martians have invaded Venus add an element of tension surrounding the ultimate safety of the cosmos. Humans’ arrogance in thinking there is no other intelligent life in the universe is their undoing, and this misplaced pride leaves them exposed and unprepared for the Martians’ attack. While none of the Martians ultimately survive on Earth, it is logical to conclude that their telepathic abilities may have allowed them to transmit what they learned to their peers back on Mars so that they could learn from their mistakes and conquer other planets.