The Time Machine
The Time Machine.jpg

Cover of the original publication
AuthorH. G. Wells
Cover artistBen Hardy (first edition)[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreScience fiction
TypeFuture evolution
Published1895 by William Heinemann[1]

The Time Machine is an 1895 book written by H. G. Wells, and one of the first science fiction novels to demonstrate the concept of a time machine. The term "time machine" itself was coined by H. G. Wells, and continues to be used for any time travelling device.[2]

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Time Machine focuses on a man from Victorian England who is a close friend of the narrator, called the Time Traveller in the novel. The Time Traveller has constructed a time machine, and travels to the future to find two races of post-apocalyptic humans. He meets a member of the Eloi race who he adventures with in trying to retrieve his time machine, stolen by the Morlocks. After returning to the present, he tells the story of his travel to several guests, to their complete disbelief.[3]

Plot[edit | edit source]

The story begins when narrator recounts the Traveller's lecture to his weekly dinner guests that time is simply a fourth dimension, and his demonstration of a tabletop model machine for travelling through it. He reveals that he has built a machine capable of carrying a person, and returns at dinner the following week to recount a remarkable tale, becoming the new narrator.

In the new narrative, the Time Traveller tests his device with a journey that takes him to the year 802,701, where he meets the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults. They live in small communities within large and futuristic yet slowly deteriorating buildings, doing no work and having a frugivorous diet. His efforts to communicate with them are hampered by their lack of curiosity or discipline, and he speculates that they are a peaceful communist society, the result of humanity conquering nature with technology, and subsequently evolving to adapt to an environment in which strength and intellect are no longer advantageous to survival.

Returning to the site where he arrived, the Time Traveller is shocked to find his time machine missing, and eventually concludes that it has been dragged by some unknown party into a nearby structure with heavy doors, locked from the inside, which resembles a Sphinx. Later in the dark, he is approached menacingly by the Morlocks, ape-like troglodytes who live in darkness underground and surface only at night. Within their dwellings he discovers the machinery and industry that makes the above-ground paradise possible. He alters his theory, speculating that the human race has evolved into two species: the leisured classes have become the ineffectual Eloi, and the downtrodden working classes have become the brutish light-fearing Morlocks. Deducing that the Morlocks have taken his time machine, he explores the Morlock tunnels, learning that they feed on the Eloi. His revised analysis is that their relationship is not one of lords and servants but of livestock and ranchers. The Time Traveller theorizes that intelligence is the result of and response to danger; with no real challenges facing the Eloi, they have lost the spirit, intelligence, and physical fitness of humanity at its peak.

Meanwhile, he saves an Eloi named Weena from drowning as none of the other Eloi take any notice of her plight, and they develop an innocently affectionate relationship over the course of several days. He takes Weena with him on an expedition to a distant structure that turns out to be the remains of a museum, where he finds a fresh supply of matches and fashions a crude weapon against Morlocks, whom he fears he must fight to get back his machine. He plans to take Weena back to his own time. Because the long and tiring journey back to Weena's home is too much for them, they stop in the forest, and they are then overcome by Morlocks in the night, and Weena faints. The Traveller escapes only when a small fire he had left behind them to distract the Morlocks catches up to them as a forest fire; Weena is presumably lost in the fire, as are the Morlocks.

The Morlocks use the time machine as bait to ensnare the Traveller, not understanding that he will use it to escape. He travels further ahead to roughly 30 million years from his own time. There he sees some of the last living things on a dying Earth, a giant hot red sun beating down on the dying Earth. He continues to make short jumps through time, seeing Earth's rotation gradually cease and the sun grow larger, redder, and dimmer, and the world falling silent and freezing as the last degenerate living things die out. During this time, he encounters several creatures, of which none are vertebrates, and which live in the same point in space as his home, and as the Morlocks and Eloi. These creatures include giant reddish beach creatures, presumably crabs; a giant white insect; and a mysterious inky creature of the shallow water.

Overwhelmed, he returns to Victorian time, arriving at his laboratory in Richmond (since he has travelled in time, not space) just three hours after he originally left. Interrupting dinner, he relates his adventures to his disbelieving visitors, producing as evidence two strange flowers Weena had put in his pocket. The original narrator takes over and relates that he returned to the Time Traveller's house the next day, finding him in final preparations for another journey. The Traveller promises to return in half an hour, but three years later, the narrator despairs of ever learning what became of him.[3]

Future Species[edit | edit source]

Eloi[edit | edit source]

The Eloi are descendants of modern humans, albeit slightly smaller in stature to their modern day counterparts. With large eyes, hairless bodies, and small ears, this relative of Homo sapiens are described as having "sub-human intelligence" (although they retain the ability of speech, although more primitive than contemporary mankind), as well as a more fragile figure (primarily due to their dissolute and inactive lifestyles). When the Time Traveller visited the year 802,701 AD, he discovered that the Eloi lived in a symbiotic relationship with their primary predator, the subterranean Morlocks (another descendant of modern many) who provide food, infrastructure and clothing for the ground dwelling Eloi, tending their distant cousins in a way similar to how farmers tend to cattle, later slaughtering and using them for food.

Morlock[edit | edit source]

Morlocks are a fictional species of primate created by H. G. Wells for his 1895 novel The Time Machine. They dwell underground in the English countryside of 802,701 AD in a troglodyte civilization maintaining ancient machines that they may or may not remember how to build. Their only access to the surface world is through a series of well structures that dot the countryside of future England.

Morlocks are humanoid creatures that are descended from humans, but by the 8,028th century have evolved into a completely different species said to be better suited to their subterranean habitat. They are described as “ape-like”, with little or no clothing, large eyes, gray fur covering their bodies, and extremely pale gray skin. As a result of living underground they have little or no melanin to protect their skin and so have become extremely sensitive to light, able to stay above ground only for limited amounts of time.

The Morlocks' main source of food is the Eloi, another race descended from humans that lives above ground and is far more beautiful in appearance and culture. The Morlocks treat the Eloi as cattle, and the Eloi do not resist being captured for fear that the ones that fight back will be taken first.

The Morlocks in the movie version of The Time Machine (produced in 2002) are eusocial organisms, like ants, which are divided into several breeds. The Uber Morlock is the brain of the colony and possibly its reproductive breed. The Uber Morlock looks less ape-like unlike the other breeds. There is also a hunter breed, a worker breed, and a scout breed. They became extinct when time traveler Alexander Hartigan arrived in 802,701 AD and befriended the beautiful Mara, a teacher of a local tribe of Eloi. After learning of the ecology between the Morlocks and Eloi he used his time machine as a sort of bomb by jamming its gears and causing it to explode. This sent a time shock throughout the Morlocks' caves, accelerating their life span until they disintegrated into dust, thus leaving the Eloi as the dominant species on Earth.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Time Machine. Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  2. Time travel. Wikipedia. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Time Machine: Summary. SparkNotes. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
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