Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Time Machine begins with a dinner party, in which the inventor of a time machine explains to his disbelieving guests the principles on which his invention is based. This scene is a quintessential one in stories by Wells, in which an original mind finds itself checked by an audience that is taken aback by daring and ingenuity. The time traveler persists, however, gradually making his auditors reconsider their basic premises, even if they do not concede that it is possible to travel through time.
Although Wells rarely bothered to construct elaborate scientific justifications for his romances, the inventor’s speech can still seem convincing to the nonmathematician. Much of the book is cast in the inventor’s first-person narration, in which he recounts to his friends the results of his journey through time.
In the far distant future, the time traveler (he is never given a name) lands among a small, delicate, and timid people, the Eloi, who live on fruit. Their environment seems benign, yet they are afraid of the dark, huddling against the appearance of another people, the Morlocks, who the time traveler gradually discovers are the subterranean masters of this future world. The Morlocks are the meat eaters, feeding on the Eloi but otherwise staying below ground in deep shafts, which the time traveler must explore in pursuit of his time machine, the Morlocks having carried it away.
Much of the novel concerns the time...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
One evening after dinner with friends at his home, the Time Traveler leads the discussion to the subject of the relationship between time and space. It is his theory that time is a fourth dimension, and he believes that this concept can be proved. To the astonishment of his guests, he exhibits a small model of his Time Machine and declares that it can travel backward or forward in time. One of the guests is invited to touch a lever on the model, and, to the amazement of all, the machine disappears. The Time Traveler explains that the instrument is no longer visible because it is traveling into the past at such great speed that it is below the threshold of visibility.
The following week, the Time Traveler is not at home to greet his dinner guests when they arrive, but he has left word that they are to proceed without him. Everyone is at the table when their host comes in, dirty from head to toe, limping, and with a cut on his chin. After he has changed his clothes and dined, he tells his friends this story of his day’s adventures.
In the morning, he seats himself in his Time Machine and activates the mechanism. As he reels through space in the machine, he sees days shoot past him like minutes, and the rapid alternation of light and darkness as the sun rises and sets hurts the Time Traveler’s eyes. Falling from his machine when he brakes too suddenly, he finds himself on the side of a hill. In the misty light, he can see the figure of a winged sphinx on a bronze pedestal. As the sun comes out, the Time Traveler sees enormous buildings on the slope. Some figures are coming toward him, one of them a little man about four feet tall. Regaining his confidence, the Time Traveler waits to meet this citizen of the future.
Soon a group of these creatures gather around the voyager. Without a common language, he and his new acquaintances have to communicate with signs. After they have examined the Time Machine, from which the traveler has had the presence of mind to remove the levers, one of them asks him through gestures if he has come from the sun.
The creatures lead the Time Traveler to one of the large buildings. There he is seated on a cushion and given fruit to eat. Everyone in this civilization is a vegetarian, as animals have become extinct. When the Time Traveler has eaten, he unsuccessfully tries to learn his new friends’ language. These people, who call themselves the Eloi, are not able to concentrate for long without tiring.
Free to wander about, the Time Traveler climbs a hill, and from the crest he sees the ruins of an enormous granite structure. Looking at some of the Eloi who are following him, he realizes that they all wear similar garb and have the same soft, rounded figures. Children can be distinguished from adults only by their size. The Time Traveler realizes that he is seeing the sunset of humanity. In the society of the future, there is no need for physical or mental strength. The world is secure and at peace, and the strong of body and mind would only feel frustrated.
As he looks around to find a place to sleep, he discovers that his Time Machine has disappeared. He tries to wake the people in...
(The entire section is 1299 words.)