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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 Eight (Dead London)


The way into London has many red weeds, but they are already showing the signs of the disease that will soon wipe them all out. The streets are quiet, broken only briefly by the sound of burning houses, and become increasingly dust-covered as the narrator walks on. Many dead bodies lying about are also black from the dust. Shops have been looted, though it was mostly for food. The only humans the narrator takes note of are a man covered with dust and quite drunk, and a dirty woman sitting dead on a doorstep.

The repeating sounds of “ulla, ulla” run through the streets, much to the narrator’s perplexity. While trying to find the source, he comes across a bus that has tipped over and the skeletal remains of a horse. Then his mind moves on to thoughts of friends from the past and his loneliness.

He eats, drinks, and sleeps in a public-house until dusk, when he resumes his walking. Suddenly he sees the Martian that has been making the noise. The narrator is curious so he moves closer. A dog with meat in its mouth hurries past him, while others follow after hungrily. Then he discovers it is a broken handling-machine and that the meat the dog had was part of a dead Martian. He sees another Martian standing still at a distance, and it is also silent.

When the “ulla” noise stops abruptly, the narrator feels more alone than ever and becomes scared, staying in a cabman’s shelter until he is able to go on. With something of a suicidal mindset, the narrator heads towards a third Martian, but his emotions quickly turn to excitement at the sight of crows around it. He hurries up the hill and over the mounds that the Martians have piled up about the top of it and looks into the pit.

There he sees birds eating a Martian and dogs fighting over the bodies of 50 Martians. “Ulla” had been the sound of the last Martian calling out before it, and then the machinery, died. They were killed off by an earthly disease that man has been able to build up immunity towards, something that the narrator is particularly excited by. The end to the Martian threat came none too soon as a flying-machine lies among the motionless machines.

The narrator is overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of the city and thanks God that it will soon be as it was, as people begin to return. Strongest of all is the thought of his wife.


The fallen handling-machine is termed a Samson, a strong man from the Bible whose activities can be compared to the Martians. He killed many people, set fire to fields, and was not stopped by locked city gates. Also, his consumption is restricted and the Martians can only get nutrients from draining victims. Samson died when he pulled down a temple on top of himself and others; St. Paul’s is the only building in London that the narrator mentions specifically as having been damaged.

Another Biblical reference in this chapter is to Sennacherib. He was the king of the Assyrian Empire, whose men were killed by an angel sent by God when he was attempting to take Jerusalem. The narrator says he thought that the Martians had been similarly killed off, when he sees their dead bodies.

The sun coming up while the narrator is looking in the pit is an important symbol of the end of the Martians. They first emerged when the sun was setting and throughout the book, they have been associated with night. Now the rising sun sets the tone for an end to their power and the return of men.

A primrose is so called because it is the first rose to open in spring. The hill that bears the name is the site of this first rush of new hope. It also could resemble a flower, with the mounds about the top of a hill as the petals of a flower are arranged.

The pit that the first canister made when it landed was something of the birthplace of the Martians. Now at the end the symbol of the pit has come full circle and the final pit they have created is their burial hole.

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