The War of the Worlds


H. G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds: Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

When a second fighting machine arrives at the pit outside, the narrator and the curate take refuge in the pantry. For two weeks, they huddle in hiding, eating food and crowding around the peephole to behold the Martians and their strange behavior. During this time, the curate grates on the narrator. Trapped with this insufferable man prone to “helpless exclamation,” the narrator feels like he’s going to go crazy. The curate, for his part, weeps for hours on end and overeats, far exceeding his share of the rations and putting the two men in danger of running out of food. Slowly but surely, he becomes depressed and begins to act without concern for safety. The narrator notes, “He was one of those weak creatures, void of pride, timorous, anemic, hateful souls, full of shifty cunning, who face neither God nor man, who face not even themselves.”
The narrator’s belief that the curate can’t even face himself, let alone God, perfectly illustrates how spineless he thinks his companion is. In turn, it becomes painfully clear that the curate is unfit for survival, especially since he’s apparently unable to grasp the concept of rationing food. To be sure, he’s weak and miserable, a person who cowers in the face of the unknown. That Wells chooses to portray the worst of humanity in the form of a religious figure is perhaps a critique of the ways in which religious institutions have historically been resistant to progress, whether scientific or social.
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Outside, the Martians establish a base in the new pit. Three fighting machines now lurk on the premises, and several handling-machines move about completing various tasks. One night, the narrator hears the Martians extract blood from a human until the poor man is drained and lifeless. This terrifying event leaves the curate “robbed of all vestiges of reason or forethought.” On the third day, the narrator witnesses a Martian feeding ritual, an experience that causes him to abandon any plans of trying to escape. 
The fact that the Martians’ feeding ritual strips the curate “of all vestiges of reason or forethought’ once again confirms the notion that he’s feeble and useless. By saying that the curate is “robbed” of “reason,” the narrator implies that fear makes the man unable even to think logically. As such, the curate becomes a rather dangerous companion, since the two men must act rationally and secretively if they’re going to stay alive.
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