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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Book Two: The Earth Under the Martians
Chapter Six (The Work of Fifteen Days)
As the narrator stands in amazement at the world that has come to look so different after only a few days in the hands of the Martians, he feels at level with the animals for a moment but it passes quickly. He begins walking, setting off through the tall weeds, until he is able to make his way over a six foot wall and get some food out of a garden. This, along with some mushrooms which he later comes across, tide him over for awhile, though he continues to be driven to get food and as far away from the pit as his strength will allow.
Continuing his travel, the narrator notices that the weeds grow prolifically in water, and that this has caused flooding as they choke up the streams. He drinks up the water regardless, and even tastes one of the weeds but finds it unpleasant. He says that eventually bacteria caused a disease that killed the weeds off quickly.
As he goes on, the narrator’s surroundings show more signs of the world as it had been, the abundance of the red weed gradually gives way to the sight of quiet houses. Having seen no Martians or other humans, but only wary dogs and skeletons (he tries to get something off, for food, but there is nothing left on them), he rests.
At nightfall, he resumes walking and comes across some potatoes in a garden, enough to satisfy his hunger for awhile. He sees evidence of the use of the Heat-Ray and everywhere there is silence. The narrator thinks that he is the only one around who had not become a victim to the Martians’ “extermination.” He is horrified at the speed of events, and thought of the Martians off in other places, destroying the world.
The title of the chapter is somewhat ironic, as what the narrator notices is mostly destruction. There has been no “work” done, like rebuilding houses and gathering forces, only ransacking and flight.
There is something similar to Plato’s cave analogy in this chapter and a few of the preceding. The narrator calls the now-buried house a den and from it he can see very little of the outside world. When he emerges, he stands for a while, stunned in the bright sunlight and the sight of a world different from what his reality had always been.
The weeds continue in this chapter to be a symbol of destruction. The flooding they cause also represents the displacement of life caused by the Martians, shown, for example, in the mass migrations. It is important to note that the term “Titanic” he uses to describe them is in reference to the mythological Titans, not the ship that went on that fatal journey, which was not around at the time Wells was writing. However, the idea of natural selection was known, which Wells use of to explain the earthly plants resistance to the disease that kills off the red weed, demonstrates the scientific side of Wells and his time.