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The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262

The Time Traveler

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The Time Traveler, who exhibits his Time Machine one evening after dinner. The next week, his guests arrive for dinner but do not find him home. Informed that they are to proceed without him, they sit down to dinner. Later, their host arrives, dirty and limping. He has traveled to the year 802,701, the time of the sunset of humanity. He tells his guests what he found. The people, weak, rounded creatures about four feet high, are vegetarians called Eloi, living in enormous buildings. Underground live the predatory Morlocks, apelike creatures also descended from humans. They were responsible for the disappearance of the Time Machine, but the Time Traveler says he managed to get it back and take off as the Morlocks sprang at him. Then, after quick and horrifying excursions ahead millions of years to the distant future, when the sun is dying and the earth is enveloped in bitter cold and deathly stillness, he hurried back to the present. The next day, the Time Traveler silences his friends’ doubts by departing again on his Time Machine; he does not return, and his friends can only wonder what mishap has made him a lost wanderer in time.

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Weena

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Latest answer posted April 25, 2009, 6:08 pm (UTC)

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Weena, a girl of the Eloi. The Time Traveler saves her from drowning, and she becomes his friend and guide. After sightseeing, they find that they have walked too far to return that night. They build a fire on a hill to keep away the dark-loving Morlocks, but later the Time Traveler wakes to find the fire out and Weena missing.

Time Traveller

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 181

The Time Machine is comprised mostly of the Time Traveller's story, as told to Hillyer. A well-to-do yet socially conscious inventor and a man of science who lives in Richmond, he creates a machine that allows him to travel in the fourth dimension. He has twinkling gray eyes and a pale face that is usually flushed. Well educated in the leading theories of his day, such as evolution and communism, the Time Traveller moves quickly from observation to speculation but acknowledges when he has been wrong and rethinks his position. The Time Traveller remains excited about the future, even after he learns by traveling in the future that humankind will not survive and that all trace of life will be wiped off the face of the earth. He is also a very witty man who often makes jokes at his own expense. His humor and history of playing practical jokes on his guests is one reason his guests suspect that his story is not true. Hillyer says of him that he "had more than a touch of whim among his elements."

Other Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 659

Blank
The editor of "a well-known (but unnamed) daily paper," Blank—also referred to as "the Editor"—is a "rare visitor" to the Time Traveller's home. He is skeptical when told of the experiment the week before, and when the Time Traveller appears during dinner, his clothes rumpled and dirty, he makes fun of him, asking, "Hadn't they any clothes brushes in the Future?" The Editor also disbelieves the Time Traveller after he tells his story, remarking, "What a pity it is you're not a writer of stories."

Dash
Attending the second dinner, Dash—also referred to as the Journalist—"is more interested in his own stories than those of the Time Traveller."

The Eloi
Descended from the owning classes of nineteenth-century Britain, the Eloi live in 802,701 A.D. and are small, childlike creatures who spend their days playing and lounging. Vegetarians, they sleep together in large halls as protection against the Morlocks, who prey on them at night. Although initially intrigued by the Time Traveller, they quickly lose interest in him, except for Weena, a female Eloi the Time Traveller rescues from drowning.

Filby
Filby appears in the second chapter and is described as "an argumentative person with red hair." He is a rationalist who does not believe the Time Traveller's claims. He is also not very bright. Hillyer says that if Filby had presented The Time Machine and explained it instead of the Time Traveller, "a pork-butcher could understand."

Hillyer
Hillyer is the narrator and the only person who believes the Time Traveller's story. The bulk of the novel is the Time Traveller's story, as told to Hillyer. However, Hillyer directly addresses readers in the first, second, and twelfth chapters, and in the epilogue. Unlike the Time Traveller, who is pessimistic about humanity's future, Hillyer maintains hope, saying that even if the Time Traveller's story is true and that humanity is doomed for extinction, "it remains for us to live as though it were not so."

Medical Man
The Medical Man, also referred to as "the Doctor," is one of three guests present at both dinners. The others are Hillyer and the Psychologist. He holds a note from the Time Traveller and a watch and suggests that the group begin dinner on time, as the Time Traveller had instructed. Although he takes the Time Traveller seriously at first, he grows skeptical, believing that the Time Traveller has tricked them with his demonstration in the first chapter.

The Morlocks
In 802,701 A.D., the Morlocks live underground running their machines. Descended from Britain's nineteenth-century working class, the ape-like creatures have large eyes, white skin, and fur, and are fearful of light and fire. They also prey upon the Eloi, whom they use as a food source. They pursue the Time Traveller through the middle of his story, but he eventually beats them off and escapes into the future in his time machine.

Provincial Mayor
The Provincial Mayor is present at the first dinner. He has never heard of the fourth dimension and, in general, does not appear to know much about science.

Psychologist
The Psychologist is present at both dinners and engages the Time Traveller when he explains his theory. He says that historians would find time travel especially useful, noting, "One might travel back and verify the accepted account of the Battle of Hastings, for instance!" The Time Traveller chooses him to pull the lever on the model in the first chapter.

Very Young Man
The very young man is at the first meeting only, participating in the discussion about time travel.

Weena
Weena is an Eloi that the Time Traveller saves from drowning when other Eloi ignore her. A source of information about the Eloi, she accompanies the Time Traveller as he searches for The Time Machine, and the two develop a strong bond. The night before the Time Traveller returns to the past, she dies in a fire the Time Traveller sets to ward off Morlocks.

Themes and Characters

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The human characters at the start of the story represent some of the types of people with whom Wells himself interacted. Each of these characters—editor, journalist, medical man, psychologist, silent man, and argumentative man—is, in his own way, skeptical of the nameless time traveller's journey. Only the narrator expresses belief in the traveller's story. The traveller himself is presented as an extremely patient inventor, interested not only in scientific investigation but also in philosophic thought. The time traveller's efforts to understand the mysteries surrounding him are expressed in exemplary logical style, but they demonstrate how easily the human mind can be deceived by appearances.

When the traveller arrives in the year A.D. 802,701 he first meets the Eloi, beautiful but frail-looking little people whose dress and appearance make no noticeable distinction between male and female, adult and child. They spend their time wholly in play, showing no sustained interest in him or in any type of work. His only permanent companionship comes from Weena, a young woman whom he rescues from drowning in the Thames while the other Eloi simply look on helplessly. From her he receives constant gratitude and devotion.

Ports were of nickel, parts of ivory, parts had certainly been filed or sawn out of rock crystal.
At first the traveller believes that fear has been completely eliminated from this world of the future, but soon he recognizes the Eloi's fear of the dark. He later associates this with the apelike, light-hating Morlocks, who emerge at night to capture Eloi and carry them below.

Two vivid passages describe the traveller's encounters with the Morlocks. He explores their subterranean dwellings, and later starts a forest fire to save himself and Weena. When Weena is lost during the fire, the traveller's only desire is to recover his stolen machine and return home. After a final battle with the Morlocks he succeeds in thrusting the machine forward in time and escaping.

Throughout the book the voice of the time traveller discourses on the problems that over-stratification of society can create for humanity, both for those who live in too much luxury and for those who are compelled to work under subhuman conditions. Wells is often criticized for the pervasive pessimism of his work, and there is certainly a great pessimism in The Time Machine. There is also, however, the philosopher's hope that if people become aware of the kind of future they are creating, they may change its direction. There is a further sign of hope in the narrator's closing comments, after the traveller has disappeared into an undefined future. As the narrator looks at the flowers Weena has given to the traveller, he recognizes that "gratitude and mutual tenderness" had survived in the future, even though many other moral values had been lost.

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