The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While the narrator’s brother escapes England, the narrator himself has remained with the curate, camping out in an abandoned house for two days to avoid the Black Smoke. In hiding, he can’t keep his mind off his wife, thinking she must assume he’s dead. Meanwhile, the curate grates on his nerves so much that he tries to avoid the annoying man, moving from one room to the next until finally locking himself in the attic to be alone. At last, a Martian comes along on Monday afternoon and nullifies the Black Smoke with a blast of steam. Once the coast is clear, the narrator and the curate creep outside, only to find that an invasive red weed has grown across the land. 
While his brother and the rest of humanity must contend with the Martians out in the open, the narrator is forced to deal with the pesky curate. In a way, this annoying man becomes almost as much of a nemesis to the narrator as the Martians are, a fact that once again illustrates how the aliens’ presence often pits humans against one another. If the narrator met the curate under other circumstances, it’s unlikely he’d dislike him so much, since the curate would be less prone to wailing about his hopelessness. As it stands, the Martian invasion has brought out the curate’s worst side, and the narrator must remain with him even though they harbor vastly different ideas about religion, the unknown, and survival.
Themes
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
The narrator decides to leave the abandoned house. At first, the curate disagrees, arguing that they should stay because it’s safe in the house, but he eventually relents when he sees that the narrator has no reservations about leaving him behind. Together they set out, passing dead bodies strewn across the roads and fires raging through the woods. At one point, a Martian fighting machine appears within a hundred yards, chasing a group of people. They hide in a shed until the machine passes, and then venture out again (though, once more, the curate is reluctant). Upon leaving, they quickly see another Martian pursuing a small group of humans, which it doesn’t incinerate—rather, it scoops them up and places them in a “great metallic carrier.” The narrator notes that this is the first time he intuits the Martians “might have any other purpose than destruction.”
The realization that the Martians “might have any other purpose than destruction” is deeply unsettling, since the narrator has already come to terms with the idea that these aliens want only to ruin everything in their path. That they could have plans in store for humanity and earth is alarming because it confirms both their intelligence and their commitment to their task. Furthermore, the thought of them planning something only adds to their mysterious quality, emphasizing the terrible fact that humans have no idea what the future holds.
Themes
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
The narrator and the curate hide yet again in a ditch. Eventually they rise and continue until the curate feels weak, at which point they go into a house to look for food and water. The first house they try has nothing valuable, but the second has a pantry stocked with food. The pantry is connected to a kitchen and a cupboard. While the two men stay up late eating, another cylinder crashes to earth. This time, though, it lands nearly on top of them, destroying a portion of the house and rendering it impossible for them to leave. When the narrator wakes up after having passed out, the curate tells him to be quiet because there is a group of Martians just outside the house. Together they huddle in the kitchen, scared to even breathe. After a long time, the narrator sneaks into the pantry and starts eating, and the curate follows behind.
Although the narrator gravely dislikes the curate, the annoying man does—in this scene at least—help him survive the arrival of the most recent Martian cylinder. When the narrator wakes up after having passed out, the curate quickly tells him to be quiet, alerting him to the dangers just outside the house. In this way, Wells casts companionship as useful when it comes to survival, even if that same companionship presents various interpersonal hardships.
Themes
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon