Time traveling, a concept known to modern man as inconceivable, but in The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, this fathom of human fantasy has come to life. Wells entangles a unique blend of contrasting characters, conflicts of capitalist verses laborer divisions, and foreshadowing of the destruction of humanity to seem together this novel of visionary proportions. “The Time Machine is a bleak and sober vision of man’s place in the Universe.”(McConnell Pg.1581)
Well’s use of characters in The Time Machine brings a heavy sense of contrast and diversity into the story.
There are five main characters around which the story revolves. Beginning with the Eloi and the Morlocks, which are the two branches of humanity in the year 802,701. The Eloi, who are our capitalist force, and whom resemble modern humans the most, live above ground and feed on the vast vegetation that has engulfed the Earth. The Eloi are lazy and mind spans to that of a five-yearold.
The Eloi never fully mature for the cannibalistic Morlocks harvest them at a certain age as food. The Eloi are described as fair of skin and hair and are considered childlike and frail. “Fragile little creatures perhaps four feet tall, they pass their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. Human vigor and energy have passed into languor and decay.”(McConnell Pg.3865) The Eloi live in splendid castles, but these beautiful porcelain castles are crumbling because of a lack of maintenance due to inferiority and lack of concern from the Eloi.
“But a second look reveals that is only a ruined splendor. All human artifacts are slowly crumbling. Some of the buildings are already gone, and even the many still-standing buildings, in which the surface people live, are decaying.”(McConnell Pg.3865)
The second branch is the race known as the Morlocks. The Morlocks, on the other hand from the Eloi, are the laborer and harsher branch of humanity. The Morlocks are hairy and monstrous creatures with red glowing eyes and razor sharp teeth. “He is supprised to learn of another people, the Morlocks, ugly, fearsome, and subterranean.”(Molson Pg.600) The Morlocks live under ground in a subterranean environment running machines and underground factories. Due to their adaptations to their underground living environment, the Morlocks only come to the upper world in the dark, for they cannot stand the glare of sunlight. “They are strange little beings whose pallid bodies are just the halfbleached color of the worms and things one sees preserved in spirit in a zoological museum. They are chinless, and in their faces are set great lidless, pinkish grey eyes that glow of red. At night they leave their subterranean world to hunt down Eloi for food.”(McConnell Pg.3865)
The next character is the Time Traveler himself, who remains nameless throughout the whole novel. He is an inventor with an infatuation of the future and Darwin’s theory of the fourth dimension. The Time Traveler is middle class citizen, just as Wells was in his day. The traveler is highly concerned with the world to come and has spent years perfecting his spectacular machine. ” ‘It took two years to make,’ retorted the Time Traveler.”(Wells Pg.14)
The next character is Weena. Weena is one of the Eloi who befriends the Time Traveler after he saves her from drowning in a nearby stream. Even though, in the beginning, the Time Traveler states that no gender can be determined of these creatures, he seems to be sure that Weena is female. The way Weena acts around the Time Traveler is like that of a pet or small child. She cannot perform any humane actions, talking, logically thinking, Etc. “It is also no accident that language itself has declined to a very simple level, for language is what marks the human intellectual capacity to question, evaluate, and explore. Weena can do none of these things.”(Magill Pg.867)
Lastly there is the narrator of the story, Mr. Hillyer. Mr. Hillyer doesn’t really play a main image in the story line, he is merely there to relay the story. Mr. Hillyer is a guest of the Time Traveler, who has been invited to dinner. Mr. Hillyers curiosity gets the best of him and he seeks to find the truth of the Time Traveler and his machine.
The division of capitalist verses laborer is the main conflict the story revolves around. “A final horror is the realization that both Eloi and Morlock are descendants of the human race and represent the natural culmination of the stratification of the struggles between the capitalist and laborer divided society of the late nineteenth century.”(Molson Pg.600) The capitalist Eloi became too reliant on the laborer Morlocks to run the machines and factories, and to keep the intelligence of the human race ongoing. The Eloi preferred to frolic and live carefree in their utopian Garden of Eden the world had become. “By the year 800,000, the world, at least above ground, was co-operative , truly a modern utopia. Nature had been subjugated and man had readjusted the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit his needs.
Disease, hardship, and poverty were eliminated.”(McConnell Pg.3865) The Morlock in turn took the industrialization into the subterranean underground. The Morlocks retained some of their intelligence, unlike the Eloi, by revolving their lives around mechanical industrialization. And when food became scarce, the Morlocks turned to what instincts they had left and became cannibalistic of the Eloi. “While the upper- worlders drifted to physical and mental ineffectiveness, the lower-worlders drifted to mere mechanical industry. However, since machines, no matter how perfect, require some intelligence to maintain, the Morlocks managed to retain some of their intellectual strength, and, when the process of feeding the under-world became disrupted, the cosmic process reasserted itself and the Morlocks emerged to eat the Eloi.”(McConnell Pg.3866)
One of the most incredible aspects of this book is the way that Wells uses it as a device to foreshadow what he thought the world and human race would come to if society didn’t change their ways. During Wells’s time there was a big line being drawn between the laborers and the capitalists, and Wells clearly saw what direction that line would lead the human race in. At the end of the book, the Time Traveler escapes from the Morlocks by throwing his machine into the even more distant future. When he stops the machine the first time he finds no trace of the human race, but several very odd, very inhumane type creatures. “Although no humans are in evidence, a giant crablike creature and a huge butterfly are at odds with each other.”(Magill Pg. 867) After this occurrence the Time Traveler pushes the machine even farther on, to the year 30,000,000. Here the Time Traveler finds a practically dead Earth, clearly foreshadowing humanities harsh fate. “This time there can be no mistaking Wells’s intention.
The second law of thermodynamics is relentlessly at work: The Earth is grinding to a halt, its face turned to a red, dying sun. In the eerie half-light, the Time Traveler watches a huge tentacled creature wait at the edge of a sluggish ocean. Life on land seems to have reduced to lichens and simple plants, on Earth, everything is floundering back toward the point of its origin: the slack-tided ocean.”(Magill Pg.867) The Time Traveler returns home to his time in England and tries to tell his story to hi peers and fore worn them of the future to come. His guests simply laugh at him and don’t think twice of his warning. The only thing the time traveler can think to do is to return to the future and try to make a difference on the people of that time. He leaves and tells Mr. Hillyer to prepare for his return, but he never makes it back. “Wells leaves unanswered the question whether the Time Traveler succeeded, for the man never returns. Thus our future, insofar as the reader is concerned, remains in jeopardy, since we cannot know what effects the Time Travelers warning might have had on future humans.”(Magill Pg.867)
H.G. Wells’ use of contrasting characters, capitalist verse laborer conflicts, and the foreshadowing of humanities destruction have made this book not only one not to be overlooked, but one not ever to be forgotten as well. The possibilities of the future are endless, but The Time Machine clearly goes to show that the fate of the future will be what we as a society make of it, and the possibilities and impossibilities are merely consequence.