Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 2, Chapter 7

By H.G. Wells

Book 2, Chapter 7

The Man on Putney Hill

  • After finding some food and spending the night in a bed in an inn, the narrator remarks that he's thinking normally for the first time since arguing with the curate. We have our doubts that the narrator is thinking normally, but perhaps it's normal for him. (He is kind of a weird dude, after all.)
  • He's haunted by the curate's death, though he wants us to know that he's not really guilty because it was a sequence of unforeseeable accidents that led to the curate's death. Sure.
  • Also, since he can imagine all sorts of terrible fates for his wife (like being stuck with an annoying curate), he finds himself hoping that she was killed quickly by the Heat-Ray (2.7.3).
  • The narrator prays to God.
  • When he leaves his hiding place, he creeps like a rat, which makes him realize that even rats might pray to God, that they might have hopes and dreams too: "If we have learnt nothing else, this war has taught us pity – pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion" (2.7.3).
  • (By the way, if you think it's weird that he a) wants us to know that he's not to blame for the curate's death, b) hopes his wife was killed quickly, and c) feels pity for rats, come join us for a discussion of all this in "Characters: The Narrator.")
  • He wants to find his wife, but doesn't know how to go about doing so.
  • The narrator might be headed for the depths of despair, but just in time, he gets a lesson in life from frogs. See, the frogs are still trying to stay alive, so he should also.
  • On his way to London, the narrator is confronted by a disheveled man with a sword. The guy with the sword tells the narrator that this area belongs to him and the narrator should get off his property.
  • But, wait, they recognize each other. It's the artilleryman that we last saw in Weybridge. So, rather than run the narrator off, the artilleryman invites his old pal back to his hiding place, where they can talk in relative comfort.
  • Once they're safely in hiding, the artilleryman lays out his theory. First, people can't beat the Martians. Compared to the Martians, the people are like ants. In other words, humans' old way of life is done for: "There won't be any more blessed concerts for a million years or so; there won't be any Royal Academy of Arts, and no nice little feeds at restaurants" (2.7.49).
  • This sounds like a sad fate for humans (we like "nice little feeds at restaurants" – they're, well, nice), but the artilleryman is kind of excited by this.
  • What will the future hold, if not concerts and restaurants? The artilleryman thinks that Martians are going to capture people and breed them like livestock. Maybe the domesticated people will have some form of religion that preaches submission – a "do-nothing religion" (2.7.58), while other domesticated people will help the Martians by hunting the humans who haven't been caught yet.
  • This is a lot to take in.
  • Still, the artilleryman doesn't want to be domesticated and drained of blood, so he's got a plan for survival: the strong people will have to live underground, and they'll have to be organized and healthy.
  • He'll only accept "able-bodied, clean-minded men" and "able-bodied, clean-minded women" into his underground civilization (2.7.68) – and only people who can obey orders. People who don't fit that description will have to die and should die.
  • The artilleryman notes that once everything is set up and safe underground, maybe we'll be able to come up and play cricket sometimes when the Martians are elsewhere.
  • The artilleryman is not just focused on survival (and cricket) – he also wants to go kill some Martians. He thinks that human spies will have to spy on the Martians and steal one of their tripods.
  • The narrator is really caught up with all these plans, but then the artilleryman shows off the tunnel he's been digging. It's a pretty pathetic tunnel, and the narrator realizes that the artilleryman is all talk.
  • This is especially obvious when the artilleryman wants to knock off early to relax. (The narrator notes that he could work more, but he's not going to complain about relaxing.)
  • The artilleryman tells a story about how the people left in London spend their time drinking and relaxing – and that's why they're losers, according to the artilleryman, who is busy spending his time drinking and relaxing.
  • After dinner, the narrator looks at ruined London. He resolves to leave the artilleryman, "this strange undisciplined dreamer of great things" (2.7.96). That's sounds like a nice way to say that he realizes the artilleryman is a big hypocrite.