Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 1, Chapter 12

By H.G. Wells

Book 1, Chapter 12

What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton

  • Oh, this chapter title isn't very cheerful at all. So much for that hope.
  • The artilleryman plans to meet up with his military unit in London in order to continue the fight, while the narrator plans to meet up with his wife in Leatherhead in order to get the heck out of the country. We'd go with plan #2.
  • They take some food and, to avoid the third cylinder, they take the long route. Luckily for us, the long route passes through a lot of destruction, so we get to hear about charred bodies and abandoned possessions. We suppose this is Wells' way of reminding us that there's a war going on.
  • On their way, the narrator and artilleryman run into three cavalrymen and they share some information about the Martians.
  • (Also, the narrator notices that one of them has a heliograph that looks like a theodolite – which are both great words to say aloud. If you must know what those words mean, a theodolite is a device used in surveying and measuring, while a heliograph is a device that uses a mirror to send light signals.)
  • One of the cavalrymen tells them to go Weybridge, where the brigadier-general is.
  • As the narrator and the artilleryman travel farther from the front, the world seems more peaceful and ordinary – except there are other artillerymen setting up their guns, so it's not totally ordinary. Still, if we must have something out of the ordinary, we'll take "artillery being set up" over "charred bodies" any day: both are a little out of the ordinary, but one involves fewer charred bodies.
  • When the narrator and the artilleryman reach Weybridge, they see the military trying to evacuate people. One old man doesn't want to leave without his valuable orchids, so the narrator gently tells him, "Death! […] Death is coming! Death!" (1.12.36). The old man doesn't quite get the message.
  • The narrator and the artilleryman hang around Weybridge, which is not panic-stricken. They seem to calm down. For instance, they find the time to help some old women pack (1.12.39). The people in Weybridge are evacuating, but not panicked about it. Why? Because they think of the Martians as "simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town" but would "be certainly destroyed in the end" (1.12.40).
  • Then the army's guns start firing – and then stop firing when the Martians have destroyed them.
  • The Martian tripods become visible and the Martians continue to do what they do best: destroy stuff.
  • To escape the "terrible Heat-Ray," the narrator decides to get into the River Thames, which seems like a good idea, except that the Heat-Ray causes the water to heat up (which is kind of the point of the Heat-Ray, after all). The Thames gets especially hot when one of the Martian tripods falls into the river after some artillery kills the Martian driving it.
  • (If you're keeping score at home, that's Humans 1, Martians… well, we don't have precise numbers, but it's got to be over 100 by now.)
  • Rather than get out of the boiling water, the narrator wants to go check out the Martian wreck. That's what we call having one's priorities out of order.
  • The narrator eventually crawls out of the boiling water and falls down on the riverbank. From that position, he sees the remaining tripods take away the wreckage of the fallen tripod.