H.G.Wells was an English writer famous for his Science fiction novels, of which one of his earlier books is called ‘The Time Machine.’ The themes found in the novel reflect Wells’ displeasure with the policies created by the government at his time; although his later novels engage with the problems of society more fully.
The book’s protagonist is simply identified only as The Time Traveller. Having used the theory that Time is a fourth dimension he creates a piece of machinery which allows him to go back and forth through time.
His Time Machine takes him to the year A.D. 802,701 in the future where the buildings of civilisation are completely gone. One of the first things seen is a very large statue of a sphinx – an ancient mythological creature. The sphinx suggests the worship of the sun and so automatically there is a sense of decay in that Britain has through time, taken an old religion on. It is the first sign that he has entered a future that has devolved as time has passed. A feeling that the new society is not friendly is grasped when the white Sphinx stares straight at him
‘It chanced that the face was towards me; the sightless eyes seemed to watch me.’ (Page 23 line 13).
The Time Traveller then comes across the Elois who have evolved in looks. They are smaller and frailer and he can describe them all since they all look alike with the same features. They no longer speak English and automatically appear unintelligent to the Time Traveller when no questions are asked about how he came to be there. The time traveller feels a sense of disappointment, when they show
‘to be on the same intellectual level of one of our five-year-old children’ (page 26 line 12).
He notices the Eloi are all very children like and seem uninterested in anything.
The British clothing has changed and the people are now wearing Togas, creating an envisioned picture of Greek Gods and Goddesses walking around. This society seems to be an idealic ancient Greek/ Egyptian lifestyle where everyone lives in Utopia.
Nature has ruled, with trees flowers and other vegetation having flourished. Everything has gone and the Earth has changed in a way that was not expected by the time traveller. Mother Nature has taken back what is rightfully hers.
‘There were no hedges, no signs of propriety rights, no evidences of agriculture; the whole Earth had become a garden’ (page 31, line 3-4).
Wells has cleverly thrown out the idea of whether the Earth and its inhabitants can evolve and keep on improving trying to create a more modern society and travelling in a straight line or whether we just come back around; If civilisation is like the cycle of a human being. Starting from a cell, multiplying building up to create a fresh baby, has no bodily functions and then gets better while growing, being able to control itself at its peak, it grows and grows until it reaches a point where it becomes older and looses all of its bodily functions again coming back to where it originally began, becoming dependant on others. The body is dead in the ground all the cells breaking down back into the Earth again. The Earth has grown leaving its inhabitants behind.
The Eloi live in buildings which are large and modern but they have obviously not been used for a long time since some are wrecked and have been weather worn with other buildings completely decayed. He observes their laziness, the fruit which they eat can not possibly be fruit they have grown or gathered as they are incapable of doing so. There is no technology, no books, nothing for him to learn from.
He does assume they must have medicine as there are no signs of disease. In ‘The Time Machine’ it does not correct or reinforce the time traveller’s assumption about medicine although according to Charles Darwin’s theory, the survival of the fittest, we can say that although there were a lot of negative changes to the human race, maybe we evolved in a way where we became immune to illnesses and diseases, since there is no sign of medicine and the Eloi are not smart, it seems unlikely that they have the ability to produce any medicine.
As we then later find out they do nothing for themselves, let alone each other, the time traveller then realises that because there is no further need for technology, agriculture or anything else in order to improve life, the future human race has lost interest in anything and has become uninspired; becoming small and weak in body and brain. Also usually men are seen as the stronger sex and therefore are the workers in society, however since there has been no work to do over generations, they have become comparable in build to women, which explains their similar looks.
‘These people of the future were alike’. (Page 30, line 5)
They have large communal shelters where they all sleep at night, they wander freely in the day and everything is about having fun with no worries; which the time traveller sees as a kind of Utopia. Everything he observes, he tries to find a reason for why it has happened e.g. for the relatively small population of the Eloi and because the decayed large structures which have been deserted, he assumes that it was because before them they created a birth control to reduce any problems of overpopulation. He tries to find solutions in order to make the ‘Utopia’ reality. This relates to an important theme in the novel that there has been an automatic assumption that the human race will continue to improve in society; Wells has tried to warn the reader of trusting the social chain of command without thinking of the consequences of what could happen to the society in the future.
The Time Traveller becomes intrigued when he first sees the
‘ape-like creature’ (page 43 line 2) running along.
Wells was a Darwinist, since at the times Darwin’s theories were being accepted in the scientific community. H.G.Wells believed that as the social system would gradually change over thousands of years, so would the human biology. He cleverly inserted this theory into his book. The ape like creatures are called the ‘Morlocks’ which already shows the modification of the humans which is far more reflective than the ‘Eloi’, a beautiful name for a beautiful race.
When the Time Traveller comes across the savage Morlocks, he realises the behaviour of these beasts are the same as those of prehistoric men – e.g. fire is the Morlocks weakness. In order to beat the Morlocks in an evolved future he has to devolve himself to suit the environment. He must devolve himself to become as savage as the Morlocks.
‘I longed very much to kill a Morlock or so. Very inhumane…I began to slake my thirst for murder’ (Page 63 line 2-4).
As the story goes on the Time Traveller discovers the weaknesses of the advancements of humanity. The Eloi seemed the perfect race and are yet weak, lazy and stupid. While the Earth and all surroundings have become perfect the human race has not. Although Wells is a Darwinist he shows Darwin’s theory to be wrong. In the book he shows that the changes of the environment may not always produce the best characteristics in man and so those that succeed in surviving in an environment does not naturally make them better than their past state.
On the other hand we have the Morlocks who do all the work and yet the Eloi live in fear of the cannibal beasts. They have evolved in such a way that hey can work fully in the dark. They come out, eat and work together as a team. The Industrials survive because they work together. The have been compared to the workers of Well’s time; in Victorian London many people laboured on the underground railroads in 1865 – which is when the Time Traveller specifically mentions as the beginning of the Morlocks. They live underground and have evolved to only work underground but are living in a non-utopian society.
The utopian society in which the Eloi live in turns out to be false. The time traveller then realises that his theory about it being a communist society at the start of the novel was incorrect. The class structure of his own time had in fact continued and the human race has been split in two classes: the Eloi a beautiful race that’s lazy and stupid but live in luxury and fun; the Morlocks are the working class that live in a non utopian world below ground and have devolved into beasts.
Most of the Time Machine takes place in the future but this novel tells the reader a lot about the society in which Wells lived in. The city was pretty much the centre of the world in trade and industrial progress. London expanded its wealth; although wealthy in many ways Victorian London was not a paradise for members of the lower class. England was a capitalistic country and still is.
The Time Traveller observes that the future is a communist one, with no hierarchy and no state of class. They are all equal but have no sense of community or no sense of connection between them.
‘There were no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights’ (page 31 line 3).
Wells was very interested in the concerns of the lower classes, and the unequal terms people were on in the Victorian society. He then joined the Fabian Society; a group that recognised the mistreatment of workers. Wells joined the group to try and publicise the incorrectness of the political system and he believed that changing the political structure would bring about a better social system. Wells shows his point by showing everyone the effects of Capitalism in the future.
When the Time Traveller travels 30 million years on from his time he observes everything as just getting worse. An ocean with no waves, rivers now only beaches, butterflies and crab like creature everywhere and then further on even they are gone. The Earth has just gotten worse throughout the years.
The triumph of the human race took a different shape in my mind. It had not been a triumph of global warming or any physical catastrophic event but one of man wiping out man through selfishness and social irresponsibility. However in my opinion the triumph had not just been over destroying the human race, but also nature, the Earth and in time the extinction of other species.
The Earth is our habitat but also a habitat to millions of other species and so we must take care of it as much as possible. As we can see from the way H.G.Wells has described the different conditions of the Earth. All he can see is the deterioration of everything on Earth. So as the tenants to the Earth we have to take action and become greener in order to stop global warming.
H.G.Wells has given us a main message in this novel. Wells argues that evolution is not necessarily leading mankind to Utopia but that our actions will back fire and will lead us to dystopia. He has shown that with the Elois and Morlocks that if the government carry on in their ways the upper class will not just become stupid and lazy but the slaves will rebel against them. Wells has tried to show us that there is still time and humans still have free will to change the course of their lives. We must change the system in which people have different status and levels but we must show that we are all equals and change governments to social systems that are not necessarily politically correct but morally correct.