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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 Fourteen (In London)


This chapter is from the point of view of the narrator’s younger brother, a medical student in London. He first learns of the Martians in the Saturday morning paper, which, although it stirs up some interest, is limited in its reports to military maneuvers and the burning woods. It also incorrectly argues that the effects of gravity will limit the Martians to a lethargic state. Curious rather than concerned, he plans to go down to the narrator’s house to see them.

The telegraph he sends about his plans never reaches the narrator but neither does he. An accident has stopped the train to Woking, but few think to tie it to the activities of the Martians. This is partly because Londoners did not take it personally, feeling themselves secure as well as dulled by years of a constant flow of news. Most did not bother reading even the Sunday paper.

After hearing news of an invasion while in church, the brother gets a newspaper and heads over to the railroad station. It is disorganized and he can get very little information before officers begin clearing off the platform to make way for the soldiers and weapons using the line. Like others who are now starting to focus on the Martians, he gets a newspaper, with its ink still drying. It gives a more accurate description of the Martians and the fighting so far but still fails to grasp the severity of the situation. Instead, the paper discourages panic and tells of the immense military buildup. Besides, judging by the size of the cylinders, it is thought that there can be no more than twenty Martians.

Still holding the paper, the brother watches the arrival of the refugees, whose worn appearance contrasts sharply with the Londoners in their Sunday best. He talks with a few of them and one man tells him that Woking has been destroyed. The brother is further concerned when he hears quite clearly the sounds of intense firing while walking through the quiet streets.

He finally manages to get to sleep, only to be awakened in the early hours of Monday morning. The brother, like so many others, opens a window to find out what is going on. A policeman is hurrying up and down the streets, knocking on doors and shouting warnings of the Martians’ approach. While he stands there, lights begin going on and vehicles start fleeing through the streets. Another lodger comes into the room and joins him in watching the scene below. The brother hastily gets dressed and then goes down to the street.

There he is able to get a newspaper, sold for profit, which contains a dispatch from the Commander-in-Chief. It says that the Martians and their “Black Smoke” (a new weapon discussed in the next chapter) were unstoppable and that escape is the only option. It works in getting the population of London excited. With dawn breaking, more and more people are preparing for flight. The brother is among them. After passing by his landlady and her husband at the door, he hurries to his room, pockets all his money, and goes back into the street.


One of the literary elements in this chapter is based on contrasts. In one paragraph, a tranquil sky is described, which is followed by a simple statement that there could be a dead man floating in the river. This structure is effective in conveying the atmosphere of London, where the arrival of the Martians is gradually taking over the normal patterns of life.

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