The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator finishes eating and goes back to the kitchen, where he listens to a thudding vibration made by the Martians outside. The curate has also reentered the kitchen and is now looking through a small triangular hole in the wall. The narrator scrambles over and replaces the curate at the hole, through which he sees a large pit—much like the one in Horsell Common—and puffs of green vapor. A fighting machine stands motionless above, its cockpit empty. The narrator also sees a new machine, a kind of “handling machine” with many legs—like a mechanical spider—all working with amazing dexterity, such that it seems to be a “crab-like creature” with a Martian operating it, “the equivalent of the crab’s cerebral portion.”
In this moment, the narrator likens the Martians to the “cerebral portion” of a crab, thereby offhandedly suggesting that the aliens have perhaps evolved so much that their bodies aren’t, in fact, actually bodies; rather, it seems in this scene, their bodies are brains capable of controlling intricate machines of their own making. 
Themes
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
The narrator digresses to describe the Martians’ anatomy in greater detail, explaining that they have large circular bodies resembling heads. Each body has a face with huge dark eyes, no nose, and a “fleshy beak.” On the back of the body there is a “tight tympanic surface” that acts as a large eardrum. Around the mouth, sixteen tentacles wriggle about as hands—the narrator notes that the Martians seem to want to raise themselves onto these hands but are unable to do so because of earth’s strong gravity. Inside, he continues, the body is primarily taken up by a brain with “enormous nerves” connected to the eyes, ear, and tentacles. The heart, for its part, is seemingly quite strained by the earth’s atmosphere. Notably, the Martians have no digestive system. “They were heads,” writes the narrator, “merely heads.”
The narrator’s description of the Martians’ anatomy further confirms his previous allusion to the fact that their bodies have been streamlined via evolution to prioritize only the most vital organ—the brain. Of course, this highly efficient body has developed in response to Mars’s atmosphere, which is why the heart and tentacles seem so ineffective to the narrator. Whereas these body parts would work perfectly well on Mars, earth’s strong gravity takes its toll on them and renders them less efficient. By including this, Wells ultimately makes a case for the theory of evolution and natural selection, which upholds that living organisms adapt over time in direct response to their specific environments.
Themes
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
Expanding upon his description of the Martians, the narrator explains that the creatures don’t need a digestive system because they don’t eat food, but rather inject blood into their veins. “The physiological advantages of the practice of injection are undeniable,” writes the narrator, “if one thinks of the tremendous waste of human time and energy occasioned by eating and the digestive process.” He adds that the human body wastes a great amount of energy and time digesting food. Furthermore, he mentions that, though this process of sucking blood out of living victims seems repulsive, one should consider what humans’ “carnivorous habits” might seem like to “an intelligent rabbit.”
Again, the narrator (and, in turn, Wells) emphasizes the efficiency of Martian anatomy, once more showing how the process of evolution can eventually lead to incredibly advanced beings. In addition, he demonstrates his ability to retain a certain amount of perspective when it comes to judging the Martians for their alien practices. By urging humans to consider what their “carnivorous habits” would seem like to “an intelligent rabbit,” he reminds readers that, in the end, the Martians’ feeding ritual is nothing more or less grotesque than human’s hunger for flesh. 
Themes
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
The narrator notes that a “certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute” once wrote (before the Martians arrived) that humans could conceivably evolve to a point at which they dispense with bodies and limbs in favor of “mechanical appliances.” This writer also pointed out that human anatomy might one day do without digestion and that “such organs as hair, external nose, teeth, ears, and chin” might no longer remain “essential parts of the human being, and that the tendency of natural selection” could carry humanity to this advanced stage, where “the brain alone” would be “a cardinal necessity.” Commenting on this, the narrator admits to believing that the Martians may have descended from beings similar to humans. Concluding his summary of the Martian body, the narrator adds a final detail: micro-organisms don’t exist on Mars.
The “speculative writer” the narrator references here is, in fact, H.G. Wells, who actually wrote a piece called “The Man of the Year Million” that humorously suggests humans will one day evolve into beings quite similar to the Martians he describes in this section. That the narrator thinks the Martians may have descended from beings not unlike humans shows once again how powerful and transformative he believes the process of evolution to be.
Themes
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
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