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Course Hero, "The War of the Worlds Study Guide," May 17, 2017, accessed September 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/.

The War of the Worlds | Plot Summary

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Summary

Book 1

The narrator, a philosopher from Woking, England (just south of London), recalls witnessing an explosion on the surface of Mars through a telescope, which the public ignores. Six years later, a cylinder containing Martians crashes to the ground outside Woking. The Martians who emerge are octopus-like and move with difficulty because of the different levels of gravity and air on Earth. Their devastating weapon, the Heat-Ray, ignites anything its invisible beam touches, torching the group of humans who first approach it and defeating soldiers and guns arranged to protect the town. The Martians build tripod machines to get around and destroy any opposition, including human telegraphs and railways to slow news of their arrival. New cylinders—similar to escape pods—continue to land on Earth every 24 hours, as the Martians flee a cooling planet in search of a new home.

The narrative follows the story of the survival of the narrator and his younger brother in London. The narrator and his wife flee the Martians, but they are separated when the narrator returns to Woking to find it overtaken. He travels for a time with an artilleryman and narrowly escapes death on several occasions. They are separated at Weybridge where the narrator flees by boat after witnessing a shell destroy a tripod. He meets a curate, who follows him.

The narrator then explains how his brother in London, accompanied by two women, escapes the Martians by making his way to the sea to flee the country, where he witnesses an encounter between three Martian tripods and an ironclad ship that manages to bring down two of the machines.

Book 2

The narrator returns to his own story as he continues on foot toward London and is trapped with the curate inside a house that collapses when a cylinder lands just outside. He observes the Martians closely during the 12 days he is trapped, seeing the variety of machines they built and learning that the Martians use the blood of humans for sustenance. The curate is driven to insanity, and his increasingly erratic behavior threatens to alert the Martians to their presence in the house. The narrator knocks him unconscious to silence him. The tentacles of a Martian machine penetrate the ruins in search of the source of the noise and drag away the body of the curate, narrowly missing the narrator. The Martians kill the curate, like the others, presumably by draining his blood for their own sustenance. The narrator emerges from the ruins only when the aliens abandon the area.

The narrator happens upon the artilleryman again and is for a time enamored with his schemes for human survival. The narrator comes to see these plans as unrealistic and abandons the artilleryman. The narrator makes his way to a decimated London, where he hears a strange howling that turns out to be the last living Martians who die just as the narrator is prepared to give up hope. The Martians are killed by bacteria to which they have no resistance. Humanity survives, and the narrator returns home to be reunited with his wife.

The War of the Worlds Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 The narrator and Ogilvy see gas projecting from Mars.

Rising Action

2 The first cylinder lands in Horsell Common outside Woking.

3 The cylinder opens, and Martians emerge.

4 Martians incinerate people near the pit with the Heat-Ray.

5 The narrator, his wife, and a servant flee to Leatherhead.

6 At Weybridge, an artillery shell defeats a tripod.

7 The narrator's brother leaves London as Martians take over.

8 A cylinder traps the curate and the narrator in a house.

9 Two tripods are destroyed by the Thunder Child.

10 The narrator hits the curate, and Martians kill the curate.

Climax

11 The narrator discovers the Martians in London have all died.

Falling Action

12 The mentally broken narrator wanders for three days.

13 The narrator stays with a family in London for four days.

14 The narrator travels back to his home in Woking.

Resolution

15 The narrator is reunited with his wife.

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