The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Time Traveler

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.

Weena

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.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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,...

(The entire section is 1,567 words.)