The Time Machine
The first and greatest portrayal of time travel
When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year a.d. 802,701, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment, and peace. Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realizes that these beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture—now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. They have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity—the sinister Morlocks. And when the scientist’s time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels if he is ever to return to his own era.
-Includes a newly established text, a full biographical essay on Wells, a list of further reading, and detailed notes -Marina Warner’s introduction considers Wells’s development of the “scientific romance” and places the novel in the context of its time
Student review by Katherine Bailey, who is currently studying English and American Literature at the University of Kent
A Review of H. G. Wells' 'The Time Machine'
The theme of time travel has become extremely popular of late. Niffenegger’s 2003 novel The Time Traveler’s Wife has sold over two and a half million copies and with the nationwide obsession with Doctor Who, the idea of travelling through time has never been more fashionable. H.G. Wells’ novel was originally published in 1895 showing how forward-thinking Wells was and why he is often named “The Father of Science Fiction”. For one of the cornerstones of the science-fiction genre, this novel has very little scientific content in it which both makes it more accessible for readers who are not scientifically inclined but also leaves the novel as fresh and still applicable for modern readers.
The Time Machine tells the story of an unnamed London scientist who, in a quintessentially English eccentric way, reveals to his guests at a dinner party that he has created a time machine. He tests his device with a trip to the year 802, 701 AD. As well as heralding a future cultural interest in time travel, The Time Machine also draws upon environmental concerns. The London of 802, 701 is closer to Sherwood Forest than Shepherd’s Bush. However, the most striking aspect of Wells’ novel is that of the change over the human race. Humankind has branched off into two different races echoing Darwin’s Origin of Species. These races are the effervescent yet naïve Eloi who live above ground and the brutal yet industrious subterranean Morlocks. For contemporary readers, these two contrasting races would have reflected the rigidly structured levels of Victorian society. However, modern-day critics have often viewed these two races as the degeneration of human society in a dying Earth. What is particularly interesting is what survives from our civilisation. Books disappear into ash and architecture is reduced to ruin. This could make for quite depressing reading but the relationships that the Time Traveller makes with these descendants shows how the human race may have changed superficially but still have that essence of humanity.
This novel’s themes, like the plot, transcend space and time which means that this novel will never date. The vivid and descriptive language Wells uses creates a world in which the reader explores just as much as the Time Traveller himself and in the Epilogue to The Time Machine, Wells gives this novel an underlying theme which every reader can relate to: “even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man”.