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.