As the Martians triumph throughout England in The War of the Worlds, a fungal red weed quickly spreads through the land, entangling and engulfing other plants and even enshrouding entire houses. Much like the Martians themselves, the otherworldly plant is highly invasive and enjoys immediate success when it comes to triumphing over its new environment. The red weed is symbolic of the formidable power and aggressive conquest of the Martians themselves, pointing to the potential for the delicate ecosystem of life on earth to be thrown off balance overnight. Much like the aliens, the suddenly omnipresent red weed often overwhelms the narrator, making him feel as if he’s suddenly awoken to find himself on a completely unknown planet, accentuating his sense of disorientation and obscuring his connection to his native planet. For example, in the days after the curate dies in the kitchen, the red weed grows over the room’s only peephole, thereby confining the narrator in a lonely place that glows with the plant’s extraterrestrial hue. In order to finally see outside the walls of his strange prison, the narrator has to summon the courage to move the weed aside with his hand. However, like the Martians it represents, the red weed falls prey to earthly bacteria, and by the time the narrator thwarts his misgivings and exits the kitchen, the fungal mess of weeds is already dead and rotting. In a gesture that is as symbolic as it is repulsive, the narrator grabs a stalk of the weed and chews it, inadvertently proving the strength of his immunity to the very same micro-organisms that have destroyed the plant.
The Red Weed Quotes in The War of the Worlds
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.