Is This The Future??

I’m on the fence about H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.

The pace of the beginning chapters was slow and hard to trudge through for me. Then there was the Time Traveller’s off-putting view of the future world: extremely patronizing and contemptuous, undoubtedly due to his high expectations of human intelligence in the year 802,701. He compares their intellectual level to that of a five year old child, notes their frailty, and asserts his belief that he could “fling the whole dozen of them about like ninepins”. He also seems unreasonably astounded that one of the Eloi asked him if he came from the thunderstorm. He appeared out of nowhere. Where else should they have guessed?

That being said, I think that one of its most interesting parts was when the Time Traveller discovers the Morlocks’ existence. It shatters his belief of the new world’s complacency and weakness. He sees that humans are essentially at war with themselves, devouring their other half and eventually killing themselves, as shown by the end of the book, where there is no human life remaining. Only huge crabs and something that appears to flop around in the waveless ocean remains, along with a “red eastern sky, the northward blackness… [and] the thin air that hurt one’s lungs”.

The splitting up of humans into the Eloi and the Morlocks was also an interesting component. It definitely reminded me of Darwinism and survival of the fittest. However, it does seem like the Time Traveller is a catalyst in destroying this future world. The destruction was already taking place before he got there, as evident by the dead Eloi body he finds upon his first venture into the underworld. But I think with him attempting to bring his ideas, his customs, and his self-determination to “better” this world, he inevitably messes things up for the Eloi and tips the delicate balance between the Eloi and the Morlocks into the latter’s favor.

The lack of diversity was a component that struck me as odd, but maybe it’s just because I can’t wrap my head around all humans and deviations of humanity being white in the year 802,701. I should also note that this is set in London, and I don’t know the racial or ethnic demographics of London in 1895. However, it’s a bit outlandish and unrealistic (yes, even in science fiction) that H.G. Wells chose to aesthetically obliterate human beings with darker skin tones in his futuristic society. It would be easy for someone to write it off as Wells being a product of his time, but as a person of color, and because of Wells’s constant emphasis on both the Eloi and Morlocks’ whiteness, it’s not so easy for me.

I understand its significance in being one of the earliest science fiction works, but I feel that there are a lot more science fiction novellas/novels out there written with much more finesse, complexity, and racial and ethnic inclusivity than this one. So, I’m at an impasse. I like the idea of humans literally being split into two separate entities and the theory of it being due to the “social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer”. But the haughty tone of the Time Traveller’s narrative towards this futuristic society, and the lack of (aesthetic) diversity, is what’s keeping me from fully liking the book.

 

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