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Free Study Guide-The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells-Free Book Notes
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Book Two: The Earth Under the Martians

Chapter Three (The Days of Imprisonment)


A second machine appears, and fearing that it could see in, the narrator and curate abandon the window. They soon figure that the brightness of the outside will obscure any view inside the shadowy kitchen in which they are hiding. Curiosity overcomes fear and they return to the window.

Though it was clear from the start that they had conflicting personalities, the confines of their current situation emphasize this. The narrator is becoming quite annoyed with the curate’s fragile emotional state and is concerned over his rate of consumption of their limited supply of food and drink. The curate however continues to act this way and only by using physical force can the narrator get him to show some control for a little while.

There are three more machines at the pit and a second handling-machine has been built. It is tossing dirt into a new machine, out of which comes a white powder. This then travels to another machine, but all the narrator can see of it is some wisps of green smoke, since it is behind a pile of dust that grows increasingly larger throughout the day. The result of this process is shiny new bars of aluminum and the machines are able to produce more than 100 of them in just a few hours.

The curate is looking out at the Martians when he suddenly becomes panicked and upset. Although the narrator thinks at first that it is because the Martians realized they were there, he comes to realize it was something else when he goes to the opening. He watches as one of the machines, with a Martian inside, stretches a tentacle into the container on its back. It lifts out a man, who, judging by his dress, was well-off and important just a few days earlier. Then he is hidden from sight by the pile of dust, but shortly thereafter screaming could be heard, along with the sound of the Martians releasing air before they began injection.

At this, the narrator turns and runs into the scullery, with the curate following quickly. The narrator figures that their best hope is that the Martians will abandon, or at least stop guarding, the pit. Then, after seeing for the first and only time the Martians feeding, this time on a young boy, he decides to dig his way out. When the hole collapses noisily, he is forced to give it up, demoralized.

A day or two later, when the pit is nearly empty, the narrator hears a dog howling. There is the sound of large guns firing off six shots, followed by six more, and then the night continues on quietly.


The body of the wealthy man fighting in vain for his life against the night sky is reminiscent of the shopkeeper struggling to get out of the pit in the beginning of the story. First of all, the time of day is symbolic; whereas the shopkeeper was at sunset (right at the advent of the war), the wealthy man was at night (in the middle of the war). Secondly, the social status of the victims is important. As the war goes on, those of higher, and of all, ranks in society are feeling the effects. It is a similar case to the buildings, when originally the targets were individual houses, and now institutions like schools and churches are becoming ruins.

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