Imagery and Symbolism in The Time Machine, a Novel by H.G. Wells

Imagine if you had the ability to travel through time. Would you travel to the past and meet your ancestors or watch history unfold? Would you travel a thousand years into the future to meet your descendants and see how they live? Or, would you travel to the year 802,701 to observe what has happened to Earth in 800,000 years? Most people would not choose the latter option, but this is exactly what H.G. Wells decided to write about in The Time Machine.

In this novella, Wells used imagery and symbolism to promote socialism and his anti-capitalist views. Historical Context Studying with Thomas Henry Huxley at the Normal School of Science, H.G. Wells developed interesting theories and ideas about science, and how it would change the future. One concept he often speculated on was time travel.

Almost everyone has heard of a theoretical device called a time machine, but most people do not know that it was Wells himself that actually coined the term.

He developed an interest in writing during his time at the Normal School, publishing several short stories in the school magazine in which he helped found. One of these stories was called The Chronic Argonauts, a precursor to The Time Machine. The story does not share very many similarities with the novella it would eventually become, but featured in both is the time machine and a mysterious traveler whose identity is unknown. Wells expanded this story, and 7 years later for around $14,000 published The Time Machine. Critical Analysis The imagery featured in The Time Machine is astounding.

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The year 802,701 A.D. is very, very different from the world we know today, and if Wells didn’t use imagery very well in his description of this world, he would have lost a lot of readers due to the novella being boring. “Already I saw other vast shapes – huge buildings with intricate parapets and tall columns, with a wooded hill-side dimly creeping in upon me through the lessening storm…

The great buildings about me stood out clear and distinct, shining with the wet of the thunderstorm, and picked out in white by the unmelted hailstones piled along their courses” (Ch 3, Wells) The way he describes these buildings, using such descriptive words as intricate, dimply, distinct, and creeping, makes the reader feel like he’s standing right along side the Traveler as he makes his journey into the unknown. Passages such as this are extremely effective at keeping the reader entranced in his work. The Time Machine features some interesting symbolism. Since Wells was so heavily against capitalism, he wrote the Morlocks and the Eloi to be a symbol of capitalism. Through the Morlocks and the Eloi, Wells argued that if capitalism continued unchecked, disastrous things could happen. The ruling class (Eloi) have become lazy and weak, easy prey for the working class (Morlocks). The industry and machines that litter the habitat of the Morlocks show that they used to be the unseen, lower class that ran society. The upper class had become dependent on the lower class for everything, until eventually they regressed into a state where, since they didn’t need to work for anything, they lost most of their intelligence and humanity.

Wells was trying to stir up some revulsion and horror in his readers so that they would realize if things kept going the way they were now, planet Earth doesn’t turn out very well at all. I’d imagine that this symbolism would shock a lot of readers. It doesn’t seem like that could happen to our society, but in a few hundred thousand years, who knows what could happen? Personal Response H.G. Wells has always been one of my favorite authors. I first discovered him through his book War of the Worlds, which was beautifully written. A bit of research into the author brought me to The Time Machine. After reading the novella, I instantly ranked it up with my favorite books. I’m a big science fiction guy, and find time travel really intriguing, but I would never have expected that instead of traveling just a few years into the future the Traveler travels almost 800,000 years into the unknown!

To my surprise, the future society had regressed greatly instead of being super advanced, as my expectations were. Most of the books I’ve read with time travel don’t travel farther than a hundred years, and everything is different, but life is mostly the same. In fact, this book pretty much shattered any expectation I had (except that the main character would travel through time)! Even though this book is very bizarre and different from most, H.G. Wells really hit a home run with the first widely popular science fiction book. Works Cited Wells, H. G. The Time Machine. Project Gutenburg, 2 Oct. 2004. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.

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Imagery and Symbolism in The Time Machine, a Novel by H.G. Wells. (2022, Mar 05). Retrieved from

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