Study Guide

The War of the Worlds Book 2, Chapter 8

By H.G. Wells

Book 2, Chapter 8

Dead London

  • London is a mess. There's Black Smoke powder everywhere, a drunk guy in the road, and a jewelry store that's been broken into. Oh, and also dead bodies. It sounds terrible. But let's not forget to look at the bright side here – rent has probably gone down.
  • In some places, London looks unchanged but empty, "curiously like a Sunday in the City, with the closed shops, the houses locked up and the blinds drawn" (2.8.5).
  • Although he doesn't find any people, the narrator starts to hear some sobbing cry: "ulla ulla." The narrator finds it very moving: "It was as if that mighty desert of houses had found a voice for its fear and solitude" (2.8.7).
  • The narrator finds nothing so he decides to take a nap. Curiously, no movie version of this book includes this nap, which we think is riveting.
  • After his nap, he takes a walk and sees the typical London sights: a Martian tripod that's not moving, a dog with a piece of "putrescent red meat in his jaws" (2.8.13), a handling-machine that has crashed into a building, and so on. (Although, in that last case, he tells us that it was too dark for him to see that the seat of the handling-machine was bloody.)
  • The "ulla ulla" noise stops and London seems more dead than ever. After everything he's been through, the narrator decides that now would be a good time to end it all, so he walks up to a Martian tripod that he sees on Primrose Hill.
  • When he's on top of Primrose Hill, he finds that the Martians had a big crater – maybe their headquarters? – and he also sees that they're all dead.
  • The Martians were "slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth" (2.821).
  • So people have won the war of the worlds because we have an immune system that is pretty good at fighting off bacteria. Yay humans!
  • Or as the narrator puts it, "By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain" (2.8.22).
  • As dawn breaks, the narrator looks out over London, which is pretty damaged, but which will soon be rebuilt. He feels "a wave of emotion that was near akin to tears" (2.8.29). He thanks God and thinks about the work of rebuilding.
  • Then he remembers that he's lost his wife, because Wells would never give us a happy ending to a chapter.