The War of the Worlds

by

H. G. Wells

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The Red Weed Symbol Analysis

The Red Weed Symbol Icon

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

The The War of the Worlds quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Red Weed. 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 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:
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The Red Weed Symbol Timeline in The War of the Worlds

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Red Weed appears in The War of the Worlds. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 1: Under Foot
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...is clear, the narrator and the curate creep outside, only to find that an invasive red weed has grown across the land.  (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5: The Stillness
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...is black. He discovers that the hole in the kitchen wall has been overgrown by the red weed that has accompanied the Martians and spread over the earth. On the fifteenth day, a... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6: The Work of Fifteen Days
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...his hunger, the narrator moves toward a garden, sometimes wading neck-deep through thick patches of the red weed . He eventually finds onions and, later, mushrooms. By a stream, he notices that the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7: The Man on Putney Hill
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...goes to the roof. Staring across the fiery landscape and the glowing sky, he sees the red weed glowing purple in the night, and this awakens his “sense of wonder” and understanding of... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8: Dead London
Order, Subordination, and Hierarchy Theme Icon
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
News and The Dissemination of Information Theme Icon
...his way into London, the narrator passes a drunk man slumped amidst a patch of red weed . When he tries to gain information from this man, the drunkard only curses at... (full context)
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...on the fighting machine’s hood. Feeling fearless, he draws nearer and beholds a piece of the red weed hanging from where the Martian sits dead in its cockpit. Looking around, he comprehends that... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9: Wreckage
The Other and The Unknown Theme Icon
News and The Dissemination of Information Theme Icon
Evolution and Survival Theme Icon
...sees the horse and dogcart he borrowed from the innkeeper—they are engulfed in the decayed red weed , the bones of the horse white against the daylight. He then searches for the... (full context)