The War of the Worlds | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The War of the Worlds | Book 1, Chapter 13 : How I Fell in with the Curate | Summary

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Summary

The Martians retreat to Horsell Common, and the narrator speculates that if they had proceeded straight to London the destruction would have been tremendous. Readers learn that a new cylinder lands every 24 hours. The Martians learn from the destruction of the tripod brought down by artillery and never allow humans close to them again. They busy themselves with moving all their supplies to the first pit.

The narrator escapes Weybridge in an abandoned boat. Tired and sick, he gets out at Walton and begins to walk before lying down beside the road. When he wakes up, a curate is beside him. The curate asks the narrator about the meaning of recent events, speculating about divine judgment. The narrator believes the horror the curate witnessed had "driven him to the very verge of his reason." The narrator deduces the Martians would come their way soon and devises a direction they should take.

Analysis

Wells uses the character of the curate to represent the failures of the Church in general. The curate seeks an explanation for the destruction in Weybridge, seeing it as the final judgment. He will not listen to reason, causing the narrator to ask, "What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?" The narrator rejects the idea that the events are part of God's judgment, comparing them to natural disasters instead. The curate is not dissuaded, calling the Martians "God's ministers." In this way the curate paints God as an agent of judgment and destruction.

The narrator compares the potential destruction London would have faced, had the tripod proceeded there immediately from Weybridge, to the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon. This refers to the earthquake on November 1, 1755, which killed over 60,000 people in Lisbon, Portugal. As it was All Saints' Day, many of the victims were killed by the collapse of churches while they attended Mass.

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