The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 12 : What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton | Summary



The artilleryman and the narrator decide to leave the house, with the artilleryman headed toward London and the narrator back to his wife in Leatherhead. As the road to Leatherhead is obstructed by the third cylinder, the narrator proceeds with the artilleryman, and they meet a lieutenant accompanied by soldiers coming from the opposite direction. The artilleryman tells them of the destruction of the day before. The two continue along the road, passing soldiers who urge reluctant people to flee.

The two men reach a chaotic scene in Weybridge as people crowd the railway station and the ferry in an effort to leave. Suddenly they hear gunfire and a large explosion, and four tripods come into view across the river. The narrator hides in the river. Six guns hidden in the woods fire on the nearest tripod. One shell strikes the tripod and gruesomely kills the Martian inside. Unguided but still moving, the tripod smashes into a church and falls into the river. The other Martians come to the fallen tripod, shooting their Heat-Rays at the village and destroying the opposition. The Heat-Ray from the fallen tripod heats the water in the river and scalds the narrator before he manages to escape.


The author paints a picture of the arrogance and folly of humans in the face of the Martians' superior power. The lieutenant the two men meet on the road is incredulous at the artilleryman's tale and decides it's his "business to see it too," continuing on his way toward the Martians. The narrator finds the munitions gathered by the soldiers a comfort (what the artilleryman dismisses as "bows and arrows against the lightning"), confident they "will get one fair shot, at any rate." Even as the fighting begins, a woman expresses her confidence that the soldiers will stop the Martians, but the narrator begins to grasp the vast and unstoppable power of the Martian weapons.

The author further develops the characters of the Martians by describing them as taking "no more notice for the moment of the people running this way and that than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked." The Martians have no concern for the panic and destruction they create. They do, however, come to the aid of their own, as seen with the fallen tripod, and they work together to carry off its remains.

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