The Time Machine is the first of a series of early novels by Wells that profoundly influenced later science fiction. These “scientific romances,” as Wells called them (the term “science fiction” not yet having come into circulation), include The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). In these works, Wells powerfully expresses many of the anxieties of his time. In the aftermath of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, science had replaced Scripture as people’s chief means of understanding the universe and their place in it.
Although The Time Machine introduces the first time machine in science fiction, Wells was not really concerned with plausible methods of time travel. His chief interest was in the social and biological implications of evolutionary theory. Many of his concerns remain valid.
Most of The Time Machine deals with the world of the Eloi and the Morlocks. Humanity has split into two subspecies, one of which preys on the other and both of which have degenerated from modern civilized humanity. Wells’s main point is that true progress is impossible when society is divided rigidly by class. In an ironic reversal, the Eloi, descendants of the idle rich who figuratively fed off the poor, are now themselves literally devoured by their former victims.
The vision of the end of life on Earth...
(The entire section is 369 words.)
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