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The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

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What are the themes, symbols, and other literary elements in The Time Machine?

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The Time Machine, one of Wells's best-known works, employs a fantastical premise - a journey into the future - in order to explore some of the most pressing issues of his time, such as social divisions and evolution. He speculates upon how society may develop in future. The class struggle of his own time takes on nightmarish proportions with the picture of the beautiful but mindless Eloi, the descendants of the aristocracy, who are literally preyed upon by the savage, underground-dwelling Morlocks, the descendants of the working class. Evolution is another theme which ties in with this. It was a hot topic when the novel was written, Darwin's momentous work, The Origin of Species having been published less than forty years before. The novel comments ironically on the process, viewing it in reverse and depicting the human race in regression, having lost its intellect and all the hallmarks of an advanced civilization.  

The exploration of such topics are presented in highly imaginative form, through the device of a journey through time. Although fantastical, the novel also uses scientific and pseudo-scientific discussion on the whole possibility of time travel. As always in Wells's scientific romances, there is a strain of realism that runs throughout the novel alongside the fantastical strain, which makes it all the more intriguing. Wells here also uses the clever technique of a double narrator - one who presents the main protagonist, the Time Traveller, and the Time Traveller himself, who tells his story of his incredible journey through time.  

There are some intriguing symbols used in the book. The Time Machine itself is one. It stands for scientific possibility but also raises questions about the possible dangers of scientific experimentation. In the futuristic society, there is the engimatical symbol of the White Sphinx, and even further ahead, after the extinction of almost all life, we see the dying earth under a lurid, monstrous sun - perhaps one of the most unforgettable apocalyptic visions in all literature.

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