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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Book One: The Coming of the Martians
Chapter Nine (The Fighting Begins)
After a night of little sleep, the narrator awakes early to a hot and restless Saturday and goes outside. He is unable to hear anything from the direction of the Martians, but then the milkman arrives, bringing news that troops surrounded the pit during the night.
His gardener neighbor seems unconcerned by this, or by view of the still-smoking woods around the Byfleet Golf Links, where the second cylinder landed. When the narrator spoke with a group of sappers (a kind of soldier) near the common, they had not seen the Martians nor were they familiar with the Heat-Ray. Once the narrator tells them what he knew, they argue about the best way to approach the pit.
After going to the railway station and finding that the newspapers contain no new information, the narrator continues in his attempts to find out more. However, his efforts are encumbered by the military, which has taken possession of any vantage points from which to view the common and are unable to tell him anything.
The evening newspapers also have little to satisfy his curiosity. The Martians have been busy hammering and smoke has been flowing nearly constantly from the pit, but they have not appeared again. Nonetheless, the narrator is excited by the preparations going on around him and once again feels confident in the humans’ chances.
Around 3:00, the military starts shelling the second cylinder, in hopes of destroying it before it opens. About three hours later, firing on the original cylinder begins. Rushing outside, the narrator sees the nearby Oriental College’s trees catch fire and the church tower collapse. Realizing that his home on top of Maybury Hill is now vulnerable to the Heat-Ray, he knows he cannot stay.
The landlord of the Spotted Dog inn has a horse and dog cart and is too concerned with the sale of a pig to notice the events taking place outside, something he will soon regret. He loans the cart to the narrator, who hurries to pack a few of his belongings and get his wife and servant. Three hussars, another type of soldier, are rushing about warning people, but all the narrator gets out of the one nearest him is that the Martians are in a new contraption and are leaving the pit.
After knocking on his neighbor’s door to confirm that they are in London, he takes off for Leatherhead, where his wife has cousins. By the time he is confident enough to slow the horse down, the two small towns of Woking and Send are behind them and they have passed the doctor’s cart that was also on the road.
The dominant literary element in this chapter is that of foreshadowing using the color red as a symbol of future bloodshed. The narrator mentions how the sun shining through the smoke cast an eerie red glow on everything. Later, his last sight of Maybury Hill shows that the smoke and fire had reached such a height that it is casting shadows over the green (the color of life) treetops. Perhaps one of the most vivid images though, is that of the broken shards of the narrator’s chimney lying in the flower bed. For him personally, it is the damage of his home, and his way of life. On a larger scale, it is an attack on human society. Along with the ruin about the college and the toppling of the church tower, civilization’s institutions are crumbling. However, the flower bed gives some hope; although it is fallen fragments, they can once again grow back to something of their former selves.
There are also several allusions worth mentioning. The first, “fishers of men” comes from the Bible when Jesus is calling the disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). One of the sappers mentions the quote, then changes it to “fighters of fish,” as he figures the Martians look like octopuses.
Also, there is a potential allusion to the mythological Vulcan. He was one of the gods (the God of Fire) but, unlike the others, he was ugly and so was once kicked out of Olympus. He became a blacksmith and worked making the immortals’ belongings and weapons. A frequent symbol of Vulcan is an anvil. Although he is usually not seen as bad, it is possible that Wells is alluding to him when he writes of the Martians, working busily in the pit at their hammering.