Eckels is a nervous man.
Eckels is a big game hunter. He hires Time Safari, Inc. to take him back to the days of the dinosaurs so he can shoot a Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, Eckels is a bit of a nervous man. He does not feel confident in his abilities, and gets worried even before he travels back in time. This quote demonstrates that Eckels was nervous even before facing the dinosaur.
A warm phlegm gathered in Eckels’s throat; he swallowed and pushed it down. The muscles around his mouth formed a smile as he put his hand slowly out upon the air, and in that hand waved a check for ten thousand dollars to the man behind the desk.
Eckels asks them if they will guarantee that he comes back alive. They tell him they guarantee nothing, and yet he still goes. He is nervous, but doesn’t back out.
Eckels is fascinated with time travel.
One of the reasons Eckels agreed to go despite his nervousness might be that he seems completely fascinated with time travel itself. He is willing to pay the thousand dollars just for a chance to get in a time machine. This is why he doesn’t back out, even after they won’t guarantee his safety.
“Unbelievable.” Eckels breathed, the light of the Machine on his thin face. “A real Time Machine.” He shook his head. “Makes you think. If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results. Thank God Keith won. He’ll make a fine President of the United States.”
I guess to Eckels time travel is kind of like a roller coaster. It is so scary that it’s exciting. He has come this far, and he can’t back down. He wants to see what will happen.
Eckels is self-centered.
When Travis goes into great detail to explain to Eckels why he can’t change the past, he seems a little dense. He wants a longer, drawn-out explanation. He doesn’t really seem to care about anything but himself, and certainly not small animals.
“So they’re dead,” said Eckels. “So what?”
“So what?” Travis snorted quietly. “Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive?... Fifty-nine million years later, a cave man, one of a dozen in the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse …”
If Eckels had paid more attention to this explanation, maybe he would have been more careful when he stepped off the path. Even after he wanders off, Eckels doesn’t really seem to get it. He complains that it is just a little butterfly he stepped on. When they return to the present, he doesn’t really have an opportunity to ponder his mistake, because Travis shoots him.