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Free Study Guide-The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells-Free Book Notes
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Book One: The Coming of the Martians

Chapter Three (On Horsell Common)


The narrator arrives at the scene of the crash landing to find Henderson and Ogilvy gone, having left to go to breakfast. A small group has gathered in their place, whose members also come and go. Some of the boys are throwing stones at the object but the narrator makes them stop.

Standing about the growing crowd, the narrator ponders that it is likely the cylinder did indeed come from Mars, but thinks it might contain a manuscript, rather than a living creature. Growing bored with the cylinder’s lack of movement, he goes home, only to return that afternoon.

The reports in the newspapers have caused a considerable number of people to gather about the site. Excavation is going on inside the pit by a small group of men, including Henderson and Ogilvy. So far, a lot of the cylinder has been unearthed but the one end is still in the ground and the top is on tight. Ogilvy asks the narrator to go see Lord Hilton, who owns the land, and request permission to keep the people out of the way, as they are hindering the excavators’ work. He heads off to do so, and plans to meet Lord Hilton when he comes in on the 6:00 train.


This chapter continues to demonstrate the remarkably short attention spans of the observers. There are a number of those in the crowd that leave after only a brief while, yet the cylinder is from another planet and unlike anything humans have ever seen before. The narrator himself considers the possibilities of its contents and then grows impatient and wanders home.

The boys throwing stones is also a critical look at humanity. Not only are their actions pretty inappropriate, but it shows a contrast between the sophisticated machinery from Mars and the primitive actions of those on Earth.

The irony in the excavations is that the men are essentially aiding in their own demise, helping clear off what will turn out to be a dangerous and hostile enemy. They are concerned with the construction of a railing, holding the people back, yet the craft from Mars is what they really need protection from.

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