The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
H. G. Wells’s fascination with the idea of time travel into the future was first expressed in his story “The Chronic Argonauts” (1888). He wrote at least four other versions before the first book publication of The Time Machine: An Invention in 1895.
The Time Machine is a frame narrative. The outer narrator, Hillyer, briefly sets the scene for the much longer inner narrative, the Time Traveler’s story about his experiences in the future. Hillyer concludes the narrative with a description of the subsequent disappearance of the Time Traveler and offers a brief speculative epilogue.
Hillyer is one of a group of professional men who regularly gather for dinner and conversation at the Time Traveler’s house. One evening, the host explains to his skeptical visitors that he has discovered the principles of time travel. He demonstrates a miniature time machine and shows his visitors an almost-completed full-sized version in his laboratory.
At Hillyer’s next visit, the Time Traveler enters, disheveled and limping but eager to tell his visitors about his travels in the far future. He begins by graphically describing the subjective effects of compressing years into moments of time. He then tells them how he arrived in c.e. 802,701 and encountered a race of creatures, evolved from humans, called Eloi. They are small, frail, gentle, childlike vegetarians. He theorizes that humanity has...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Time Traveller’s home
Time Traveller’s home. Although it is reasonable to infer that Wells’s unnamed traveler lives in London—and probably southwest London—nothing in the novel locates his home precisely. His home is a large upper-middle-class house typical of homes of its class in the late nineteenth century. Wells takes pains to make the home warm and welcoming, comfortable and convivial. It appears to be popular with visitors, as the two times the house is mentioned in the novel it is the setting of well-attended dinner parties that bring together intelligent and well-connected men. The guests are identified only by their professions, for example, such as the Medical Man and the Editor. There are also servants and other indications that the Time Traveller is wealthy. Thus, the home in which the Time Traveller tells his story is a place of both solid reality and aspiration, the height of ambition for Wells’s audience. This is the measure of achievement, the sign that these intelligent and comfortable Victorians really are the peak of evolution.
Eloi world. The Time Traveller’s first stop in the remote future. Although it occupies the same space as the Time Traveller’s home, the world of the Eloi is separated from it by some 800,000 years. That fact alone expresses Wells’s primary Darwinian purpose: to demonstrate that evolution will continue beyond the world he and his readers know. This...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bergonzi, Bernard, ed. H. G. Wells: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Two critical essays on The Time Machine. One addresses the novel as myth, the other as prophecy. Readable and informative.
Costa, Richard Hauer. H. G. Wells. New York: Twayne, 1967. Multiple references to The Time Machine, with critical references. A good starting place.
Hammond, J. R. H. G. Wells and Rebecca West. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Associates the novel with the writer’s scientific understanding of the human species and with his interest in a...
(The entire section is 174 words.)