War of the Worlds Summary

H. G. Wells

War of the Worlds

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War of the Worlds Summary

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The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel written by H.G. Wells in 1898. The story begins with the planet Mars having become uninhabitable for the Martians. Therefore, the Martians decide to travel to Earth and attempt to wipe out the entire human race so that they can make Earth their home.

The Martians launch off their planet in cylinders and land on Earth.  An astronomer named Oglivy, along with the narrator, sees a very strange shooting light in the sky. They go in the direction of the spot where the cylinder seems to have landed, hoping to find it.

When they find the crash site, news of this odd event starts to spread like wildfire. As a result, a large crowd gathers around the large crater that the cylinder has made. The humans expect to see people who look much like them crawl out of the opening. Instead, when the Martians came out, their appearance is very different from that of humans.  They are big and greyish with oily brown skin. Their size seems more like the size of a bear than that of a person. They have two large dark-colored eyes and lipless, V-shaped mouths that drip saliva. The narrator found them to be inhuman and monstrous.

The Martians have a weapon that shoots heat rays and set flame to anything in their path.  Many people are shot by the Martian heat-ray weapon, including the astronomer, while others, along with the narrator, flee for their lives. The narrator runs back home and the next day he and his wife pack up and head to Leatherhead, where his wife’s cousins are.  Shortly after they arrive, the narrator realizes he has to go back, to return a cart that he borrowed from an innkeeper and had promised to return. He leaves his wife in Leatherhead in order to return the cart.

When the narrator returns to the town that he and his wife had just fled, he finds dead bodies all along the streets, including the dead body of the innkeeper. He also encounters a big metal machine on a tall tripod with a Martian inside controlling it. Back at his house, the narrator meets an artilleryman, and the next day the two of them leave together.

After many hours of walking down the road, they come to another town, and as they are walking through it, the Martians make an attack. The narrator jumps into the river, out of sight of the Martians and out of reach of the heat-ray weapon. Military guns then shoot at a Martian, destroying it. The Martian falls into the river, which causes the water to boil and burns the narrator. The narrator, however, is able to escape onto a boat and down the river.

Further down the narrator lands, exhausted, on the shore. After resting, he finds someone from a nearby church who has been confused by all the destruction and has begun to follow the narrator. By that time, the Martians have begun to destroy London, where the narrator’s brother lives. The Martians have changed their weapons from the heat ray to a black smoke and many other weapons in an attempt to destroy the city. The narrator’s brother escapes, but is never heard from again.

The narrator and the churchman have broken into an abandoned house to get food when the fifth Martian cylinder lands right next to them. It destroys part of the house and traps them inside for many weeks. They stay in the house, during which time the churchman dies. He causes his own death by loud talking, which attracts the attention of the Martians.

After continuing to hide, the narrator eventually realizes that no more Martians are visible and that it is finally safe to come out. He walks down the road towards Leatherhead, hoping his wife was still alive.

Everywhere, the trees and the ground are covered in a red weed from Mars. The narrator feels like he is walking through a different world. Further down the road he meets the artilleryman, and again they stay together for a few days, but the narrator wants to see London, so he leaves the artilleryman and travels alone.

In London, he wanders the destroyed and deserted streets. There he finds a pit the Martians have created, inside which the Martians are all lying dead. They have been killed by a bacteria on Earth to which humans had long before developed an immunity.

When the narrator returns to his wife, believing her to be among the dead, he finds her and the two are reunited. Miraculously, the war is over, and soon England has returned to normal. Now and then the narrator continues to be haunted by the past experiences he had with the Martians. He thinks the world should be prepared for the Martians’ possible return.