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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Book One: The Coming of the Martians
Chapter Six (The Heat-Ray in the Chobham Road)
There is general amazement over the Martians’ methods of killing. Although there is a theory that the machine’s heat beam works similarly to a lighthouse’s ray of light, it is not known for sure; the only thing that is, is that heat is the foundation for the silent killing instrument. Almost forty people already lie dead from it.
At this point, the narrator takes a more general view, instead of one based primarily on his own experiences, to recap events. There are no plot developments; it is simply a look back at the public sentiment and experience from hearing of the news of the cylinder to fleeing from the site.
He imagines how the people, after finishing their day’s work, headed out to see the “novelty.” The atmosphere was casual and fun (almost like that of those going to see fireworks today), not at all expecting the horror and fear that would come later that night. Stent, the Astronomer Royal who had been on the scene since earlier that day, helping to direct excavations, was the only one who took any precautions. He had given directions to the three policemen in attendance to keep people away from the cylinder, and had also put in a call for a company of soldiers at the first sight of the Martians, though he originally was thinking of their protection from humans, not vice versa.
When the Heat-Ray emerged, many had a view of the deaths of those in the Deputation like that of the narrator’s. The only thing that saved the crowd itself from a similar fate is a small mound of heather (a plant with little purplish pink flowers), that took the impact of the Heat-Ray.
But as the world around them caught fire, the people panicked. In the chaos that followed as they hastened to get away, two women and a little boy were trampled to death.
Although no further events occur in this chapter, an impact is made in the retelling of events from the broader perspective of the Chobham Road instead of just that of the narrator. Starting out from one man’s specific story and then taking on a more expansive view makes it both personal and universal. It is an example of how the terror will spread to an even greater number of people as news of the events is learned.
The comparison of the crowd to a flock of sheep continues the analogy from the first chapter, when it was said that man is to the aliens as animals are to man. Aside from the details of the three policemen and the request for soldiers, the deaths of the three people who died in the midst of this animal-like panic are the only new information presented. It is significant that it was women and a child, those that are typically expected to be saved, who were the ones to be crushed under the crowd and left to die.