The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 1, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Fighting rages through Sunday night and into Monday morning as human forces try to keep the Martians away from London. The narrator and the curate witness this fighting and hide in a ditch. The narrator wonders what the Martians understand about human life, pondering whether the creatures want to exterminate the entire race. He adds that “at that time no one knew what food they needed.” When quiet falls again, the narrator and curate emerge from the ditch to see that the fighting machines have discharged canisters of the deadly Black Smoke. The narrator explains how the dense smoke curls over the land, killing everything in its way until the Martians walk by and clear the air by shooting a jet of steam on the strange vapor. The dispersion of the deadly substance utterly defeats all military opposition. Amidst this commotion, a fourth cylinder falls from the sky.
As the Black Smoke creeps over the land, it’s difficult not to think how quickly the Martians have dominated England. Like the smoke itself, they spread throughout the country, effortlessly subordinating their human foes. They force people like the narrator and the curate into ditches, making them hide like small, frightened animals. What’s more, this isn’t even the first ditch the narrator has had to seek refuge in, and even the artilleryman—trained in combat and bravery—cowered from the fighting machines in a lowly ditch. As such, it’s evident the Martians have usurped humanity’s high position in the animal kingdom, forcing them to new lows.
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