The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

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The Narrator Character Analysis

A man who tells the story of the Martian invasion. The narrator describes himself as a “professed and recognized writer on philosophical themes.” He is an intellectually curious, open-minded person who possesses more scientific knowledge than the average civilian. Nonetheless, he takes measures to make sure readers know that he’s chiefly a philosophical writer, not a scientist. Because of this, the story he recounts doesn’t focus solely on the scientific explanations of alien life, but on his experience (and on his brother’s experience) of the Martian invasion. He is particularly well-equipped to narrate this tale because he personally witnesses the arrival of the first Martians. After observing the damage the Martians are capable of inflicting, he rushes home to his wife, whom he tries to calm despite his own fears about these dangerous creatures. This tendency to emotionally withdraw from reality is characteristic of the narrator, who later writes, “At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me.” Of course, his ability to identify this psychological coping mechanism is evidence of the fact that he is also a thoughtful and reflective person. He is driven to write this story in part by a desire to rehash the horrifying experience he underwent while trying to find his wife amidst the chaos of the Martian invasion. Furthermore, he sees it as his responsibility as a writer to remind his fellow humans that, although the Martians have failed in their invasion, earth may not remain a “secure abiding-place for Man” indefinitely.

The Narrator Quotes in The War of the Worlds

The The War of the Worlds quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The War of the Worlds published in 2005.
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling, and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that generation after generation creeps upon them.

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I had turned, I did not dare look back.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

Perhaps I am a man of exceptional moods. I do not know how far my experience is common. At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all. This feeling was very strong upon me that night. Here was another side to my dream.

But the trouble was the blank incongruity of this serenity and the swift death flying yonder, not two miles away.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

I began to comfort her and myself by repeating all that Ogilvy had told me of the impossibility of the Martians establishing themselves on the earth. In particular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty. On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three times what it is on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his muscular strength would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to him. That, indeed, was the general opinion. Both the Times and the Daily Telegraph, for instance, insisted on it the next morning, and both overlooked, just as I did, two obvious modifying influences. […]

But I did not consider these points at the time, and so my reasoning was dead against the chances of the invaders. With wine and food, the confidence of my own table, and the necessity of reassuring my wife, I grew by insensible degrees courageous and secure.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Wife, Ogilvy
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and wonderful things that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social order headlong.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 11 Quotes

They seemed amazingly busy. I began to ask myself what they could be. Were they intelligent mechanisms? Such a thing I felt was impossible. Or did a Martian sit within each, ruling, directing, using, much as a man’s brain sits and rules in his body? I began to compare the things to human machines, to ask myself for the first time in my life how an ironclad or a steam-engine would seem to an intelligent lower animal.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 13 Quotes

“This must be the beginning of the end,” he said, interrupting me. “The end! The great and terrible day of the Lord! When men shall call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon them and hide them—hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne!”

I began to understand the position. I ceased my labored reasoning, struggled to my feet, and, standing over him, laid my hand on his shoulder.

“Be a man!” said I. “You are scared out of your wits! What good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Do you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent, man.”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Curate
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

No doubt the thought that was uppermost in a thousand of those vigilant minds, even as it was uppermost in mine, was the riddle—how much they understood of us. Did they grasp that we in our millions were organized, disciplined, working together? Or did they interpret our spurts of fire, the sudden stinging of our shells, our steady investment of their encampment, as we should the furious unanimity of onslaught in a disturbed hive of bees? Did they dream they might exterminate us? (At that time no one knew what food they needed.) A hundred such questions struggled together in my mind as I watched that vast sentinel shape. And in the back of my mind was the sense of all the huge unknown and hidden forces Londonward. Had they prepared pitfalls? Were the powdermills at Hounslow ready as a snare?

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 17 Quotes

At the sight of the sea, Mrs Elphinstone, in spite of the assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had never been out of England before, she would rather die than trust herself friendless in a foreign country, and so forth. She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that the French and the Martians might prove very similar. She had been growing increasingly hysterical, fearful, and depressed during the two days’ journeyings. Her great idea was to return to Stanmore. Things had been always well and safe at Stanmore. They would find [her husband] at Stanmore.

Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

In the end the red weed succumbed almost as quickly as it had spread. A cankering disease, due, it is believed, to the action of certain bacteria, presently seized upon it. Now, by the action of natural selection, all terrestrial plants have acquired a resisting power against bacterial diseases—they never succumb without a severe struggle, but the red weed rotted like a thing already dead. The fronds became bleached, and then shriveled and brittle. They broke off at the least touch, and the waters that had stimulated their early growth carried their last vestiges out to sea.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Red Weed
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

They just used to skedaddle off to work—I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; working at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back-streets; and sleeping with the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays—fear of the hereafter.

Related Characters: The Artilleryman (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

And we form a band—able-bodied, clean-minded men. We’re not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings go out again. […] Those who stop obey orders. Able-bodied, clean-minded women we want also—mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical ladies—no blasted rolling eyes. We can’t have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It’s a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race. And they can’t be happy. Moreover, dying’s none so dreadful.

Related Characters: The Artilleryman (speaker), The Narrator
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things—taken toll of our prehumen ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting-power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many—those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance—our living frames are altogether immune. But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow. Already when I watched them they were irrevocably doomed, dying and rotting even as they went to and fro. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

At any rate, whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding-place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Narrator Character Timeline in The War of the Worlds

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in The War of the Worlds. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1: The Eve of the War
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
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The narrator begins his tale by stating that the world has long been watched by supremely intelligent... (full context)
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
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Reminding his readers that Mars is older than the earth, the narrator posits that life must have begun on the red planet long before the earliest stages... (full context)
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Humans, the narrator explains, are surely nothing more to the Martians than monkeys and lemurs are to people.... (full context)
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The narrator describes the first signs of life on Mars, explaining that a bright light is visible... (full context)
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After the first flashes from Mars, the narrator ’s astronomer friend, Ogilvy, invites him to his observatory to view the anomaly. When the... (full context)
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The narrator and his wife go for a walk one night during the string of Martian flashes.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2: The Falling Star
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...to London. “The newspaper articles had prepared men’s minds for the reception of the idea,” the narrator writes. He notes that by eight in the morning, a group of people have set... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3: On Horsell Common
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The narrator approaches the pit, joining a group of bystanders who want to catch a glimpse of... (full context)
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...Newspapers in London print headlines reading, “A MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM MARS. REMARKABLE STORY FROM WOKING.” The narrator returns to the pit, where people are selling soft drinks and crowding around the edge.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens
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The narrator returns to the pit at sundown to find hundreds of spectators in a commotion while... (full context)
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As he tries to make his escape, the narrator continues to looks at the Martian over his shoulder, noting its size (that of a... (full context)
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The narrator breaks into a run and heads toward the nearest tree line. Although he tries to... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5: The Heat-Ray
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The narrator remains in the woods, peering at the pit. “I was a battleground of fear and... (full context)
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Horrified, the narrator sees that this beam of fiery light is shooting all around, burning the heather and... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6: The Heat-Ray in the Chobham Road
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...aliens’ fury. People seem to treat the event as an interesting topic of conversation, writes the narrator , not as a serious threat to their lives. In fact, many people in Woking... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7: How I Reached Home
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Running out of the woods, the narrator follows a road until he’s exhausted, at which point he falls near a bridge and... (full context)
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
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Frustrated by the way the group of pedestrians responds to his comments about the Martians, the narrator stumbles into his home, where he immediately sits and drinks wine. He tells his wife... (full context)
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The narrator admits in retrospect that he and the newspapers overlook two important factors when considering the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8: Friday Night
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The next day, the narrator is awed by the way the “commonplace habits of the social order” have seamlessly merged... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9: The Fighting Begins
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In the morning, the narrator speaks to the milkman, who laughs and says, “This lot’ll cost the insurance people a... (full context)
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That evening, the narrator has tea with his wife while the war rages on outside. Looking out the window,... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10: In the Storm
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The narrator drops his wife off in Leatherhead and turns back to return the horse and dogcart.... (full context)
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As the narrator lies in a small creek, the tripod lumbers by him. When it recedes into the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 11: At the Window
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After wallowing on the floor, the narrator pours himself a glass of whiskey and goes upstairs to survey the decimated landscape from... (full context)
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The narrator hears a sound below and sees a man walking through his garden. He whispers down... (full context)
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The narrator serves the artilleryman mutton and bread, which they share in the darkness for fear of... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12: What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton
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In the morning, the narrator and the artilleryman set out together, traveling north in order to avoid the third cylinder,... (full context)
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Upon reaching Weybridge, the narrator and artilleryman can’t find the military headquarters amidst the chaos of confused pedestrians and eager... (full context)
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...creates an enormous wave of blisteringly hot water. The other three Martian machines approach, and the narrator dives deep underwater. When he emerges for air, he sees that the fighting machines have... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 13: How I Fell in With the Curate
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...in Horsell Common, where they work late at night under clouds of green smoke. Meanwhile, the narrator makes his way toward London. On his way, he finds an abandoned boat and paddles... (full context)
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
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After beaching his boat in Middlesex, the narrator drifts out of consciousness, finally opening his eyes again to behold a curate sitting across... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14: In London
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At this point, the narrator describes his brother’s experience of the Martian invasion. His brother is a medical student living... (full context)
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Later that day, two other newspapers report that all communication with Woking has ceased. The narrator ’s brother decides that, merely because he’s curious, he’ll visit the narrator, wanting to see... (full context)
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...of the newspapers have access to eye-witness accounts of the deadly creatures. In the morning, the narrator ’s brother goes to church at a nearby Foundling Hospital, where the service vaguely references... (full context)
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Finally, the narrator ’s brother begins to comprehend “something of the full power and terror of these monsters,”... (full context)
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London grows frantic as refugees stream into the city. The narrator ’s brother moves between the groups of people, hoping to hear news about Woking to... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15: What Had Happened in Surrey
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...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... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 17: The “Thunder Child”
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Regarding the tumultuous flight out of London, the narrator writes, “Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human... (full context)
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Finally, the narrator ’s brother and the Elphinstones reach the ocean. The harbor is crowded with many boats,... (full context)
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...alien beast, sending it reeling into the water. At this point, the steamboat upon which the narrator ’s brother stands has successfully escaped and is out of sight of the Thunder Child’s... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1: Under Foot
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While the narrator ’s brother escapes England, the narrator himself has remained with the curate, camping out in... (full context)
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The narrator decides to leave the abandoned house. At first, the curate disagrees, arguing that they should... (full context)
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The narrator and the curate hide yet again in a ditch. Eventually they rise and continue until... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2: What We Saw From the Ruined House
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The narrator finishes eating and goes back to the kitchen, where he listens to a thudding vibration... (full context)
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The narrator digresses to describe the Martians’ anatomy in greater detail, explaining that they have large circular... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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The narrator notes that a “certain speculative writer of quasi-scientific repute” once wrote (before the Martians arrived)... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3: The Days of Imprisonment
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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,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4: The Death of the Curate
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On the sixth day of their confinement, the narrator finds the curate drinking wine in the kitchen. After wrestling with him, the bottle breaks... (full context)
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As time wears on, the curate verbally assaults the narrator , pleading loudly for food and threatening to shout to the Martians. When the narrator... (full context)
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The narrator fumbles over to the pantry as a Martian tentacle worms into the kitchen. Opening a... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5: The Stillness
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When he emerges, the narrator discovers the Martian has taken all the food from the pantry. For the next several... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6: The Work of Fifteen Days
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Still standing on the mound, the narrator takes stock of his surroundings, feeling that he’s studying the landscape of another planet entirely.... (full context)
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Focusing on his hunger, the narrator moves toward a garden, sometimes wading neck-deep through thick patches of the red weed. He... (full context)
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Moving on through the ravaged woods and countryside—passing through abandoned towns— the narrator is troubled by the utter silence of the land, thinking that the entirety of human... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7: The Man on Putney Hill
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The narrator spends a restless night at an abandoned inn atop Putney Hill, unable to stop thinking... (full context)
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The artilleryman fills the narrator in on what’s happened in the past two weeks, explaining that the Martians have gone... (full context)
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“What will they do with us?” the narrator asks the artilleryman, who tells the narrator that he has thought a great deal about... (full context)
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...network of tunnels that connect to London’s sewer and subway systems. “The risk,” he tells the narrator , “is that we who keep wild will go savage—degenerate into a sort of big,... (full context)
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The artilleryman is so convincing in his vision of humanity’s way forward that the narrator follows him back to an abandoned house, where the artilleryman has been digging in the... (full context)
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Going downstairs, neither the narrator nor the artilleryman want to resume work, so they eat a meal instead, and the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8: Dead London
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On his way into London, the narrator passes a drunk man slumped amidst a patch of red weed. When he tries to... (full context)
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Finding an empty pub, the narrator has a drink and something to eat. When he exits, he finally sees the Martian... (full context)
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In the small hours of dawn, the narrator walks up a hill and looks over the city. He sees another Martian fighting machine... (full context)
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The narrator explains again that Mars has no bacteria, thereby rendering the Martians defenseless against the “germs... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9: Wreckage
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After realizing the Martians have died, the narrator doesn’t have any memory of the next three days. Nonetheless, he learns from others that... (full context)
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On his way to Woking, the narrator buys a newspaper. Although most of the pages are blank, the back page is full... (full context)
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Once in the dining room, the narrator hears a voice issuing from behind him: “It’s no use,” it says. “The house is... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10: The Epilogue
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The narrator admits to feeling regretful that he can’t help settle the many questions swirling in the... (full context)
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The narrator insists that humans can no longer “regard this planet as being fenced in and a... (full context)