Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 1, Chapter 2

By H.G. Wells

Book 1, Chapter 2

The Falling Star

  • Many people see a falling star one Thursday night. 
  • Ogilvy goes out to find the meteorite, which he thinks is somewhere on the common near Horsell. (What's a "common"? In this case, think of it as a public park. Or check out the website for Horsell Common, which is indeed a real place.)
  • Ogilvy finds the meteorite in a crater, which is where one usually finds meteorites. But this meteorite is a little strange: it's cylindrical and it makes some noise.
  • Then it starts to open, which is the really strange part. 
  • Ogilvy realizes that the cylinder is hollow and full of people (eek!). He thinks they're are dying from the heat. In a somewhat heroic move, Ogilvy goes to help open the cylinder. Unfortunately, the cylinder is too hot to touch. 
  • He runs into town to get help, but he looks and sounds pretty batty, so he's ignored by a guy driving a wagon and almost gets locked inside a pub by someone else who thinks he's crazy. 
  • Third time's the charm, though. Ogilvy tries to tell his neighbor, the journalist Henderson, about this amazing thing and Henderson actually listens to the guy (probably because it would make a great newspaper article).
  • [This little meeting shows that Wells has a sense of humor, even if it is a British sense of humor. When Ogilvy tells Henderson that there's something inside the artificial cylinder, Henderson says, "What's that?" We might expect him to say "what" because it's such amazing news, but actually he's saying "what" because he's partly deaf (1.2.18). If you're British (or work at Shmoop), you probably find that funny.]
  • Ogilvy and Henderson rush to see the cylinder, but they still can't help, so they run back to town. Now, instead of just one guy looking crazy and yelling about the meteorite, there are two guys looking crazy and yelling about the meteorite.
  • The narrator asks us to imagine these two guys running into town while the townsfolk mostly go about their ordinary lives. (Since we're not from the 1890s, it might be hard for us to imagine what "ordinary" means, but you can visit the BBC's Victorians website to find out.)
  • Henderson goes to wire the news to London. 
  • Some locals go to see the "dead men from Mars," which is what people are saying this cylinder is. At least humans get things partly right. (Dead? No. From Mars? Yes.) 
  • The narrator hears about this story and rushes off to see for himself.