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The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

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The Time Traveller's goals, hopes, and dreams while creating the time machine


The Time Traveller's goals, hopes, and dreams while creating the time machine include a desire to explore the unknown and satisfy his scientific curiosity. He aims to transcend the limitations of time, seeking knowledge about future societies, and the evolution of humanity. His ambition is driven by a profound quest for understanding and discovery beyond the present era.

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What were the Time Traveller's goals in The Time Machine?

What is fascinating about the beginning of this book is the way that it commences with a philosophical debate about the nature of time and whether time travel is actually possible. Wells highlights the importance of this dinner party debate at the Time Traveller's house by ensuring that each major profession is represented, and that these characters are referred to not by name but by type. Thus the text refers to the Psychologist and the Medical Man, for example. The Time Traveller has deliberately drawn together an eclectic mix of people who represent each of the major strands of thoughts prevalent at the time in which Wells wrote the book. This is the audience of the Time Traveller as he declares his overall aim which he reveals when he shows his guests the life-size time machine:

‘Upon that machine,’ said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp aloft, ‘I intend to explore time. Is that plain? I was never more serious in my life.’

In Chapter One, therefore, the Time Traveller, who is himself identified only by his role and function rather than by a name, states his goal as journeying through time on the machine he created. Given the important revolutionary ideas that were dominating intellectual thought and discussion at the time of writing this book, such as evolution and Progress, such a goal allows the Time Traveller to challenge widely regarded truths such as whether society can really only improve as humans continue to develop in the future.

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What were the Time Traveller's hopes and dreams while creating the time machine?

In H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, the Time Traveller (as Wells was English, I've preserved the English spelling of "Time Traveller," as that is the spelling seen throughout the book) is characterized as a scientific adventurer, largely motivated by a spirit of scientific exploration. This is established early in the book, at the end of chapter 1, when the Time Traveller states his intention "to explore time" before adding, "I was never more serious in my life."

We see this sense of adventurism particularly strongly in the beginning of the book's third chapter, when the Time Traveller actually embarks on his journey through time, possessed by what he himself calls "a kind of madness" as he throws himself headfirst through time. He wants to observe for himself the future turnings of civilization, with all of those future achievements he would otherwise have never lived long enough to be in a position to see.

In this, the future world of the Morlocks and Eloi comes as a shock to the Time Traveller. In his preparations, he had expected the future to have continued along the path toward greater and greater advancement and achievement. Thus, when he arrives in this distant future time, he expects "that the people ... would be incredibly in front of us in knowledge, art, everything" (chapter 4). This assumption proves to be of plot relevance, given that the Time Traveller arrived in the future "without arms, without medicine, without anything to smoke" (chapter 6).

However, even after his experience with the Eloi and the Morlocks, the Time Traveller's fascination with knowledge and discovery is not in the slightest quenched. In the story's eleventh chapter, after escaping the Morlocks, he travels still further into the future, and here, the Time Traveller recalls, after having made his escape,

I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth's fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away. (Chapter 11)

Throughout the book, then, Wells's protagonist is animated by a spirit of scientific curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and this spirit remains intact through to the very end.

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What were the time traveller's hopes and dreams for the future while creating the time machine?

The Time Traveler builds the time machine for the specific purpose of traveling to the future to find a world where there is no war, where people are equal, where man lives in harmony with the environment.  Writing this book in 1895, Wells was very critical of the advancing Industrial Revolution that he believed widened the class gap between the very rich and the very poor.

The working class was exploited, according to Wells, to fuel the luxurious insatiable lifestyle of the aristocratic class.  There was no regard for how the land and the environment was being damaged and, he believed that technology was advancing too fast.

The time traveler was looking for a utopia, based on the belief that his own society was so imperfect in its current condition that hopefully in the distant future, man would have come to his senses and found a way to create equality, a shared system where each individual had what he needed and there were no rich and no poor.

At first when he arrives in the distant future, he believes that he has found his utopia, as expressed in the opening line of Chapter 5.

"As I stood there musing over this too perfect tirumph of man, the full moon, yellow and gibbous, came up out of an overlfow of silver light in the north-east." (Wells)

He expected that when he traveled into the future, he would find that society and mankind had evolved into an advanced race of beings who valued higher learning.

"You see I had always anticipated that the people of the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand odd would be incredibly in front of us in knowledge, art, everything.  Then one of them suddenly asked me a question that showed him to be on the intellectual level of one of our five year old children." (Wells)

When he gets to the future, he is shocked and disappointed to discover that the classes of people that have evolved from the roots of his society have not advanced, but turned into an indolent race of emotionless, uneducated beings and a vast group of cannibals who fed upon them.  The class system of Victorian England had hardened into two races of beings, the Eloi, the gentle, uneducated, playful creatures who lived above, and the vicious, working group of monsters who inhabited the underground, the Morlocks.

He believes that the Eloi have come into existence from:

"...the human race, growing weak because they had managed to decrease their population and to erase all "hardship and vigor" from their existence."

and the Morlocks, the working class who were driven underground.

In his pursuit of utopia, the time traveler is confronted with a nightmare scenario, a dystopia, or exact opposite of utopia, so instead of the perfect society, he finds a distorted, imbalance that threatens man's survival as the primary species.

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