H.G. Wells The Time Machine Essay, Research Paper
The foretelling of societies downfall by
the time traveler in H.G. Wells’
The Time Machine.
The downfall of a society can be caused by the lack of care and the thoughtlessness of the members within it. H.G. Wells tries to illustrate the perfect society and explain the realities that exist. The futurist society that he writes about is only perfect on the outside. When he explores the depths of this society it is only to unveil all the faults that exist. In The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Wells’ does not try to foretell the future but, tries to warn society of it’s possible downfalls if people continue to live with the attitudes and lifestyles of the present.
To begin, Wells illustrates how his Time Traveler gets the illusion of a perfect society by what he sees around . Wells places his Time Traveler in forward motion from 1895 AD to 802,701 AD. Upon arriving into the valley of the Thames in the year 802,701 AD his first impression of this society is ” Disease, hardships and poverty were eliminated. Man’s restless energy turned to art and for a time a great culture flourished”(Bennett 430). Wells, known for his social consciousness, gives the illusion of a perfect society free from all worry. The surroundings seem to indicate a time of great learning ,of art, and beauty. The Time Traveler states ” I saw mankind housed in splendid shelters, gloriously clothed and as yet I had found them engaged in no toil” ( Wells 38 ). The Time Traveler believed that the future held a perfect society. He assumes that these people who live here live in perfect harmony with no worries at all. The Time Traveler is introduced to the Eloi , strange little people who inhabit this society. “Indeed there was something in these little people that inspired confidence a graceful gentleness, a certain child like ease” (Wells 30). These traits making it look as if man had finally reached a point of perfection. Free from all forms of toil and able to spend all their time in the pursuit of culture and learning.
Wells shows the reader the reality of the situation through the Eloi people. The Time Traveler sees that the Eloi have the intellect of five year olds. They lack ambition, have a short attention span, and also lack strength. At first, his surroundings looked splendid, but he finds it to be in ruins. Initially the Time Traveler blames this on ” Communism” , but through the experience of meeting of the underground people the Morlocks, he realizes that these problems are rooted to the past. “At first proceeding from the problems of our own age it seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present merely temporary and social difference between the capitalists and laborer was key to the whole position” ( Wells 60 ). The time traveler believes this to have happened in this future society. The division which took place was the Elois the above ground dwellers who were more of the rich class and, the Morlocks the below ground dwellers who were the poorer laboring class who were sent below to meet the needs of the rich. Well’s saw this as a problem in the time when he lived and felt that it carried over to the future. Only in the future the division was more pronounced for “the Morlocks managed to retain some of their original strength and when the process of feeding the underworld became disrupted the cosmic process reasserted itself and the Morlocks emerged to eat the Eloi” (Bennett 431). These were the actualities of the future society that were soon realized by the Time Traveler.
Even more, the Time Traveler saw the Eloi people as the complete opposite of what he thought them to be. The Time Traveler sees how first impressions are not necessarily the right impressions. The Elois were slight creatures about four feet high, frail, fair haired and child like. They were also vegetarians. They showed no interest in learning and seemed to care little for each other. “A queer thing I soon discovered about my little hosts, and that was their lack of interest” ( Wells 33 ). Life had become to them nothing but play time with the world a play ground. “The great triumph of humanity I had dreamed took a different shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education and general cooperation as I had imagined. “Instead I saw a real aristocracy armed with a perfected science and working to a logical conclusion the industrial system of today” ( Wells 61) . Here again Wells shows the social division that was carried over from his time to the future and its effect on the people of this future time.
An Eloi named Wenna was drowning, while the others just watched, the Time Traveler took it upon himself to save her. He befriended her and together they went exploring this new world and this is when the Time Traveler realizes, ” No doubt the exquisite beauty of the buildings I saw was the out come of the last surgings of the now purposeless energy of mankind before it settled down into perfect harmony with the conditions under which it lived – the flourish of that triumph which began the last great peace. This has ever been the fate of energy in security it takes to art and to eroticism and then languor and decay ” ( Wells 90 ). At this point the Time Traveler saw a society that had once peeked in all it’s glory and now it’s decaying downfall. He realized that all the beauty and perfection he imagined was in fact not as it appeared. He realized ” strength is the out come of need, security sets a premium on feebleness” (Wells 37 ). All the beauty around him led to the downfall of this society. Man had all that they needed and became content. They felt no room for improvement and no desire to strive for anything more.
Along with the realization that this society was far from perfect, the Time Traveler is faced with problems that are encountered in his travel through time. The Eloi were not the only people who inhabited this strange new world in 802,701 AD. The Time Travelers time machine is stolen. On his quest to retrieve it he encounters the Morlocks. He finds tunnels that look like ant hills and have a strange humming sound emerging from them, a mechanical humming sound of great engines. He sees a Morlock and describes it as being a dull white, with strange large grayish red eyes like those seen in night creatures. They had flaxen hair on their heads and down their backs, ugly in contrast to the appearance of the Eloi’s. The Time Traveler now understood why the Eloi gathered together in the night. Probably from the belief that there is safety in numbers. “The Upper world people might have been favored Aristocracy and the Morlock their mechanical servants; but that had long since passed away” (Wells 71). The upper people had become the breeding stock of cattle for those who lived below ground. “So in the end above ground you have the Haves’ pursuing pleasure and comfort and beauty and below ground the Have nots, the workers getting continually adapted to the condition of their labor” (Wells 61). In this future time the ones above ground (Eloi) become the food of those below the ground dwellers (Morlocks). The Morlocks had become the masters and the Eloi there slaves. Almost a complete and total role reversal. Now the Time Traveler is also at their mercy because they have stolen his only method of returning to his time, his time machine.
Not only was the fact that the loss of the time machine was a problem with time travel, but the process of time travel itself was a bit daunting. “The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in the space which I or the machine occupied” (Wells 23). Traveling through time you may at one minute find yourself in a building and the next the entire structure gone and you under the stars. For as time passes things change. Another problem the time traveler encountered involved stopping “But to come to a stop involved the jamming myself molecule by molecule into whatever lay in my way meant bringing my atoms into such intimate contact with those of the obstacle that a profound chemical reaction possibly a far reaching explosion would result and blow myself and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions into the unknown ” (Wells 24). Here again is a problem with time travel for not only do you not know what you may encounter when you get to where you want to be, you also had to stop slowly and carefully so that you were not blown into the unknown. But having traveled through time the Time Traveler is undaunted and wants his machine back so that he could return to his own time. He goes after it battling the Morlocks and getting his machine back enabling him to return to his own time.
Finally upon returning to his own time the Time Traveler retells his story to his dinner companions. In the retelling of his story Wells, through the Time Traveler tries to pass on this warning “Above all things avoid sinking into a condition of satisfied ease, avoid soft and languid serenity, even evil passions which involve continuous effort are not so absolutely deadly as the temperament of languid and harmless playfulness” (Hutton 523). In other words, don’t become like the Eloi and take things for granted. That man must always strive for improvement and work for what is required for them to exist. “Mr. Well’s fancy ignores the conspicuous fact that man’s nature needs a great deal of hard work to keep it in order at all, and that no class of men or women are so dissatisfied with their own internal condition as those who are least disciplined by the necessity for industry” (Hutton 523). This is to say that Well’s does not give man enough credit. That most people are not happy unless they are industrious be it in labor or in learning. Human nature is such that it makes it so.
In conclusion, “The Time Machine was thus the first well executed, imaginatively coherent picture of a future worse than the present, a picture at the same time anti-utopian in its tendencies” (Bennett 431). This is to say that Wells has truly taken the time and given some thought to the possibilities of the future if mankind does not change some of their ideas. The Time Machine relieves us by its social allegory” (Hutton 534). Showing us what might happen if we continue to move forward with the belief of social division by class. What seemed inevitable to Wells no longer seems inevitable today. The future remains unmade and books like The Time Machine are written to prevent the futures they foretell.