The Time Machine

This story had many similarities to the movie The Time Machine (2002). After I looked into it, the movie was based off of the book. The Time Traveler written from H.G. Wells did not build the machine to go back in time to save his fiancé, but to go forward and see how civilization has changed. When he arrives in the future, he realizes that society has not advanced, but returned to a very primitive state. He finds two species of the human race, one above which are smaller, vegetarians, and simple. The other lives unground and have adapted so they can no longer live above ground, see in the dark and are cannibals. He notes that although the underground race were probably the poorer part of society forced to work down there for the benefit of the wealthier (above ground people), they have become the stronger of the two races. Although he faces struggles in his journey, when he returns home, he is unsatisfied, and returns to the unknown in his time machine.

In the End

HG Wells’ The Time Machine, has many different narrative threads going on with regards to messages he wants to convey through time travel. Probably the least referenced of which is the one which is the subject of this class. The Environmental angle may be the least touched upon overarching message of the book in general, but they are still important with regards to the other messages the book is meant to convey, particularly our desire to automate every aspect of our lives, and how this will evolve to be weaker. Wells illustrates this through the Eloi and Morlocks in the year 802,701 AD. However, it is not through automation as the Time Traveler assumes that creates the frailty in society, it’s through subjugation. In this way Wells is able to illustrate the inherent problems of race relations as well. The Time Machine posits that if we do not live peacefully in a mutually beneficial society, things will fall apart. It was a very interesting read that asked much more interesting question than I expected, especially considering it was written in 1895. It takes us to the end of the world and back and shows that in the end, by nature of the time machine itself, suggests that human endeavor will endure even though the world will not.

Where are we going?

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, a time travelling scientist travels to a seemingly idyllic future. As he discovers more about this new world, he comes across the terrifying truth of how humanity has evolved over the years.

The story begins as the Time Traveler recounts his story to his dinner companions. He travels to a future in which everything seems perfect. The people do not work, and have evolved so that they are frail and pretty. The Time Traveler remarks that, while these people seem perfectly comfortable and have advanced beyond the necessity for labor, he is upset that the convenience that progress has lent humanity has left them dumb and lazy. Soon, he realizes that these childlike creatures, called “Eloi,” are not the only beings that populate the earth. They are the descendants of the leisurely wealthy of humanity. The poor have been driven underground and have evolved to become terrifying creatures called Morlocks, who eat the Eloi. The Time Traveler must battle these creatures in order to return home.

I quite enjoyed the questions this novel raised about the nature of progress, and the commentary it made on social class. The social class situation in the novel, represented by the tension between the Eloi and the Morlocks, is parallel to the social class situation occurring around the time the novel was written. In both cases, the rich lead leisurely, lazy lives while the poor work. In the novel, the Morlocks have power over the Eloi, which is an important commentary for Wells to make on his own time. The novel also makes an interesting suggestion about progress, claiming that no matter what we do, the future will collapse. Too much leisure leads to the Eloi, while too much work leads to the Morlocks. Progress in either direction will end in ruin, while stagnation is also deplorable. Wells suggests that we must live in the moment, as if our inevitable future will not come to pass.

Overall, this novel raised interesting suggestions about the ethics of class structure, and the nature of progress. It was an enjoyable read that gives the reader a window into the far future, and how we might live our lives that far forward.

The Human Condition

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells is an incredible examination of the human condition and nature in general. Besides his time machine, Wells spends less time focusing on futuristic technology and more on the relationship between beings in what he perceives as the future. This relationship between beings, whether they are human or not, is a significant part of the story between Wells, the Eloi and the Morlocks. As we have different races in today’s world, Wells examines and experiences a world with different races/beings as well. This is obviously seen with the Eloi and Morlocks. One of the most important facts about nature especially with animals, is that there will always be a hunter and the hunted. In Wells’ world set in 802, 701 A.D., the hunter is obviously the strange Morlocks and the hunted is the peaceful Eloi. Besides the notion of a hunter and the hunted, Wells also examines the basic notions of building a new relationship with a different race or person at its’ most basic level. This is an obvious fact when one examines how Wells befriends and becomes close with Weena, an Eloi who he isn’t familiar with. One of the last more general notions Wells points to is the curiosity of beings no matter who or what they are. Curiosity is something that is rooted in the human condition at its’ most basic level. Wells examines the notion of curiosity through his own experiences in the futuristic worlds he visits but also with the lives of the Eloi and Morlocks.

800,686 Years From Now…

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells offers readers an adventurous and fast sample of Cli-fi literature. The book starts off kind of slow but soon after catches your attention and continues to keep you guessing right along with the time traveler. Wells uses the two very different groups that humanity has evolved into (the Eloi and the Morlocks) as a social critique and warning for the future. Although the time travel story is fun the underlining messages that Wells is presenting just seems to scream at you the whole time.

 

During the time traveler’s stay in the year 802, 701, he finds himself in the presence of a species that has evolved from present day humans called the Eloi. The Eloi are beautiful child-like “creatures” that have a very little attention span. They live in small communities and although they do not seem intelligent at all, they do have a very basic language that the time traveler tries to learn. The time traveler is amazed at this tiny new race of humans that he believes to have created such a simple and peaceful society that no longer required strength or intelligence. “Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness. “ (31) It becomes evident that Wells is most likely poking fun at the upper class for being lazy and ignorantly comfortable. I am not sure why the time traveler found a romantic interest in Weena, other than pure loneliness.

 

The time traveler discovers the Morlocks, the second group, while in search for his missing time machine. They are white ape like creatures that live deep under the ground and only come out under the darkness of night. He finds that all of the machinery and industry that helps run the communities are underground with the Morlocks. After days of only eating fruit with the Eloi, the time traveler’s mouth begins to water when he realizes they have meat, yet he sees no livestock. He comes to the realization that the Morlocks do not take care of the Eloi because they are a bound to serve a higher class, but they take care of them for food such as a farmer caring for their livestock or crops.

 

Being a new reader of the Sci-fi genre, I was interested to see how I took to The Time Machine. It started off slowly and than I was hooked. Wells wrote a book that is great for warming people up to a genre that might have previously been a turn off for them.

The Time Machine – A Review

In H. G. Wells’ vision of the future, the result of wealth disparity and technological progression for the sake of leisure is a dystopian era, where humanity has literally been split into two species; the beautiful, but impotent Eloi, and the carnivorous, underworld dwelling Morlocks. In this dichotomy, the Eloi are the descendants of the upper class, whose easy, unstressed lives causes their half (or maybe just 1%) of the human race to devolve into a species that lacks a need for any kind of mental or physical self-improvement. The Morlocks, meanwhile, are the descendants of a lower class that is slowly pushed underground while the rest of human civilization approaches its zenith without them. Transitioning to a subterranean life combined with the constant toil and strife of their labor causes the lower class to evolve into grotesque, beastly creatures that lurk in the dark and feed upon the Eloi in a pseudo-cannibalistic manner.

This dichotomy of species sets the stage for two central arguments: one, that adversity is necessary for the continued development of the human race, and two, that the unending subjugation of the proletariat will lead to the destruction of their humanity. In this regard, The Time Machine subverts the notion of future society as an advanced, technological utopia, instead taking for granted the downfall of humanity, and focusing on what happens after humanity is gone to form a parable for the consequences of capitalism’s bloom in the 19th Century.

Wells’ argument is effective, insofar as his portrayal of the future is alarmingly stark, but its premise is less compelling without some suspension of disbelief, and so The Time Machine is better read as a philosophical undertaking than a work of speculative fiction. Nevertheless, where The Time Machine functions purely as a critical allegory, it succeeds in offering plenty for the reader to consider. Its focus is both primitivistic, emphasizing the dangers of a society that relies too heavily on technology, but also critical of that same primitivism, lamenting the death of human intellect that pervades the shallow, helpless lives of the Eloi.

That Wells takes for granted humanity’s end is certainly bleak, but it also reminds the reader that the problems at the core of The Time Machine need solving in the present. If humanity is only temporary, then why not strive to make the best of what time remains? The Time Machine assumes that the earth will still exist in a livable form by year 802,701 C.E., and that assumption alone, whether current humanity remains or not, suggests that Wells has some hope for our survival, be it in some subspecies or another. If, however, Wells’ hopeful assumption seems dubious to a reader in the age of climate change, then perhaps The Time Machine’s depiction of complacency towards a flawed status quo is only more relevant.

Timeless

The Time Machine, a novel by H.G. Wells starts out with the story of a man who was late to his dinner party and turns into one of the most well-known science fiction novels in the genre. In the book, his guests recently found out that he has his own time machine….which didn’t exactly help out his whole “sorry for being late” attitude he had when he came in looking all disheveled.  The story is not overly technical, Wells doesn’t go into great detail about his time machine, but the book does dive deep into some big themes about the nature of man.  Told from an outside third person perspective, we never really know if the story is 100% true or not. The narrator tells his dinner guests that he has traveled into the future to the year 802,701 where there are two different kinds of people that more or less give us a look into the types of people that are all around us right now. Not in the literal sense considering the lower class (Morlocks)  eats some of  the upper class (Eloi) But the gap between those two types of people relates directly to the gap between classes during the time the book was written. While the story is very compelling, there are a few things that were a little off scientifically. The Eloi are described as being completely disease free, but even in the future if there are no viruses, or parasites you still need bacteria or the entire ecosystem will fail…there are just Little holes in the plots here and there.

Not The Future I Expected

I found H.G Wells’ Time Machine very interesting. I thought it was a unique take on the future and what is to become of the Earth. I feel like most portrayals of the distant future include a world covered in chrome and technology so advanced that it surpasses human intelligence. Going into the book I didn’t really have any previous knowledge of what it was about. I’ll admit, I kind of expected the typical humans vs. machine story, but that was not what I got.

The story focuses on the character The Time Traveler and his story of his journey through time. He tells them of a world that has completely transformed from their own. He explains that the world now consists of two different races. The first is the Eloi, a childlike and carefree race. The Time Traveler spends most of his time in the future with these childlike creatures. They live a simple life of frolicking in the sun and spending the day doing nothing and The Time Traveler is at first confused by their lack of intelligence. The other race are the Morlocks, ape-like creature that live underground in the dark. The Time Traveler discovers that these creature are responsible for the only running machinery of that time. Throughout his trip to the future, he begins to theorize what has turned the world into what he sees it as.

After reading the book I find it difficult to believe that is what the human species would evolve into. Both of these species lack any sort of intelligence and are basically wild animals and children. I think I find it difficult thinking that we would lose all advancement that we have made. I also think that this may be because I am used to most portrayals of the future race being highly intelligent with super advanced technology. I do, however, think that the Earth having a consistent warm climate is not unlikely. Looking at our own history, we can see that the temperature has increased, so looking ahead to the year 802,701 AD this seems like a probable conclusion.

Overall I thought that it was an interesting book that I would recommend reading. It is a different take on the future and what happens to the human race.

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.

 

Wells’s Idiot Time Traveler, Too Smart For His Own Good, Is A Symbol For Self-Destructive Progress

I had read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells years and years ago, but way back then I did not find it even nearly so rewarding as I found it now that I’m older. Part of my enjoyment, I think, is due to Ursula K. Le Guin’s new (2002) introduction, where she remarks on “the Time Traveler’s amazing improvidence” (xiv). “Reading as a child, I didn’t notice,” she says, echoing exactly my own relationship with the book as well, “but I find it strange now that he sets off into the future without a notebook; without provisions of any kind; without even putting on outdoor shoes” (xiv). What an idiot! With this in mind, this time, I chose to read the book with special attention to how curiously inept the Time Traveler is.

[This paragraph contains spoilers and is not essential to this essay.] The first thing he does in the future is stop the time machine too short, sending himself flying off and smashing his stupid face. Then he meets some Eloi, whom he immediately believes—apparently without a second or even a first thought at all—to be harmless creatures. Then, after surviving less than a day in the year 802,701, he loses the big, heavy, very hard-to-lose time machine, his only way back to his normal present time. He accidentally incites a frenzy among the Eloi as he looks for it, panicked. He grossly underestimates the distances he must travel to arm himself for the search, and then, once finally inside the Green Palace museum, he walks obliviously through darker and darker rooms, going underground toward Morlock territory somehow without noticing it. On his way back from this excursion, he starts a forest fire by accident and then, incredibly, falls asleep in the blazing forest. Weena, the only companion he manages to make in this future time, dies in this blaze, and it’s all his fault. After all this, one might expect him to have learned his lesson about underestimating his troubles, but no! He knowingly walks into a Morlock trap, self-assured that he has working matches to fend them off, and the matches do not work. He hadn’t tested them. He barely escapes to his normal present time. Then, having learned almost nothing, he goes time traveling again, and he gets himself stranded, apparently, and probably killed.

What glaring idiocy! Surely, I think, it must have been a thoughtful decision on the part of H. G. Wells to make his Time Traveler so completely devoid of common sense. Why did he do it? My theory is this: Every bone-headed mistake that the Time Traveler makes underscores the theme of modern man as over-confident in his mastery of the world and self-destructive in his obsessive pursuit of “progress.”

So the question is raised: What is progress? To the Time Traveler, the answer is unquestionably technological advancement. (Probably, most inventors would agree.) He is a characteristically industrious man, and so his role in the story is as a symbol for the whole industrial impulse of humanity. “Had I been a literary man,” he says on page 64, commenting on the ruins of a library that he found, “I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this sombre wilderness of rotting paper testified.”  Herein he reveals his fatal flaw.  He fails to even consider the moral implications of his discoveries.  He’s too busy thinking.  He’s like Gulliver, who, despite his incredible travels, never learns anything of use, because he’s too wrapped up in trying to keep a travelogue.  Wells even confesses a love for Jonathan Swift in his preface to the Time Machine, in fact (xxi).

The reason for the Time Traveler’s stupendous learning disability is that his head is over-filled with high-brow Victorian assumptions which crowd out all his common sense.  A full dedication to upward mobility, an overemphasis on the nobility of the dominant class, and a pervasive Anglo-centrism are three big parts of the Victorian attitude which he brings with him into the year 802,701.  Although he carries himself around at his fancy dinner party like he is one of the sophisticated, the noble, the beneficent, the enlightened, he still intends to carry Weena back to the nineteenth century whether she wants to come or not, just like the pillaging conquistadors had captured Native Americans hundreds of years before.  The blatant inhumanity of this action hardly seems to trouble him at all.

At one point, the Time Traveler laments, “I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide” (73).  What a beautifully artful throwback to the previous, shocking statement he made earlier, at the beginning of his tale: “I suppose a suicide who holds a pistol to his skull feels much the same wonder at what will come next as I felt then [as I prepared to activate the time machine]” (17). He, being so single-minded, becomes the cause of his own destruction. Likewise, the human race is the cause of its own decline as well. By the year 802,701, we will have mastered Nature, but sunk into idiotic complacency as a result.  The Time Traveler’s abandonment of his own common sense is the first symptom of this twisted recession.

The Morlocks, on the other hand—the descendants of the working class, of the non-intellectuals—will have retained some spark of intelligence, and will have triumphed as the smarter and stronger of the two divergent races. This turns the Victorian paradigm of savagery versus civility on its ear.

Speaking of savagery, the Time Traveler openly admits, “I longed very much to kill a Morlock or so,” and he does engage them with violence on several occasions (63). Yet, the narrator (the other narrator, the one who is not the Time Traveler) still makes the claim, at the end of the story, that “a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man” (86).  How blind can we be?