Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 2, Chapter 1

By H.G. Wells

Book 2, Chapter 1

Under Foot

  • We jump back to Sunday night with the narrator and the curate – remember them? – resting in an empty house to escape the Black Smoke. They stay put for the remainder of Sunday and all of Monday.
  • When we say "resting," we mean the narrator spends his time being worried about his wife and annoyed with the curate. To escape the curate, the narrator resorts to locking himself into an attic room.
  • After a Martian comes by and clears the Black Smoke (by spraying steam), the narrator and the curate leave. They cross the countryside, which the narrator compares to Pompeii, but instead of volcanic ash, everything is covered by the powder of the Black Smoke.
  • They cross Bushey Park and see deer and people hurrying around. This is interesting because it's one of Wells' big mistakes: back in Book 1, Chapter 15, the fourth cylinder was supposed to land in Bushey Park, but it looks like Wells forgot about all that.
  • The narrator and the curate go on, seeing more destruction (like "three smashed bicycles" (2.1.9), which really hits home for us because we like bikes).
  • The pair hides when a Martian tripod passes by. They start off again, with the narrator giving us some terrifying foreshadowing: "That second start was the most foolhardy thing I ever did" (2.1.13).
  • As they go, they see a Martian tripod picking up people and chucking them into a basket-like carrier attached to its back, which is new. It's nice to see the Martians branching out from straight-up killing.
  • They spend the rest of the day hiding in a ditch, but get moving again during the night. By the time they reach Sheen, they're tired and hungry, so they start looking into the abandoned houses for food. The narrator finds some food and gives a precise catalogue because "we were destined to subsist upon this store for the next fortnight" (2.1.18). Now we know they're not going anywhere for two weeks (that's what a fortnight is), but you might be wondering why they're going to stay there. Then, right on cue…
  • There's a big crash and part of the house they're in collapses. The narrator is knocked out. When he wakes up, the curate warns him not to move because if they move, they'll make noise. It's clear that there's something terrible outside. (What could it be? Have the Venusians come to invade too?)
  • When the sun rises, they can see a Martian tripod through a hole in the wall. The narrator has a flash of insight and realizes that the fifth cylinder has hit the house. There are Martians right outside.