Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 2, Chapter 4

By H.G. Wells

Book 2, Chapter 4

The Death of the Curate

  • On the sixth day of their imprisonment together (perhaps Monday or Tuesday?), the narrator discovers that the curate's overeating habit has become a real problem. Since the narrator doesn't know when they're going to get out of there, he creates a system of rationing.
  • Unfortunately, the narrator can't get the curate to agree with him. As the narrator notes, the curate "was beyond reason" (2.4.3). Instead, they spend two days fighting.
  • Now, you might think that being sealed in with a crazy person would make the narrator crazy too, but the narrator wants us to know that the opposite happened: "It sounds paradoxical, but I am inclined to think that the weakness and insanity of the curate warned me, braced me, and kept me a sane man" (2.4.4).
  • Then he also says, "my own mind wandered at times" (2.4.4), so maybe he's not as sane as he thinks he is.
  • On the eighth day, the almost definitely crazy curate starts to talk loudly, all about how God's punishment is just: "We have sinned, we have fallen short… Oppressors of the poor and needy!" (2.4.6). Then he begs the narrator for food.
  • That's pretty much how they spend days eight and nine, with the curate going on about how he's both unworthy and hungry.
  • This continues until finally the curate will no longer be silenced by the narrator. The curate yells, "I must bear my witness!" (2.4.14), but the narrator seems to disagree and chases him with a meat cleaver.
  • However, luckily for the MPAA rating, he hits the curate with the butt end of the cleaver which just knocks him out. Nothing bad could happen to a knocked out man during a Martian invasion, right?
  • After all this noise, the Martians come to investigate. One of the handling-machines appears at the peephole and starts to feels around inside the house with one of its mechanical tentacles.
  • The narrator hides in the coal cellar and covers himself with a bit of coal. This turns out to be useful when the tentacle doesn't grab him. Instead, it goes for the unconscious curate, who is dragged away.
  • We like to look on the bright side, but in this case we're fairly sure that the curate is having his blood drained, rather than, say, being taken out for Martian ice cream.
  • The narrator spends the rest of the day hiding and comes out on the eleventh day.