“The Time Machine” is a science fiction novel written by H.G. Wells and published in 1895. The book was one of the first science fiction novels ever to be published and is largely credited with popularizing the concept of time travel by usage of a vehicle or a “time machine” (a term coined in the novel and still widely used to this day). “The Time Machine” has been adapted many times since it’s publishing and is now available worldwide in the form of movies, tv shows and comic books.
The novel centers around a man called ‘The Narrator’ who tells us the story of a man he only refers to as “the time traveler”. The time traveler starts out the story by telling a listening group of men that he believes that time exists in the fourth dimension and proves his mastery of it by making a miniature time machine and making it disappear into thin air.
Soon, the group of men find their host stumbling into his house, looking disheveled and worse for the wear. He begins to tell them a story of astounding events that have befallen him in the past week since he has seen them. He says that he had just finished working on his time machine when it unexpectedly blasted him forward into the distant future. There he met a race of small, human descended men called Eloi.
They are kind to him and he explores the area a bit only to return to his time machine and find it gone. Deciding that the Eloi must have placed it inside the pedestal of a statue in their settlement, he attempts to pry open the statue but finds that he cannot. Soon the time traveller discovers that all is not as it seems in the peaceful village and that the Eloi have a natural enemy, a race of odd-looking white ape creatures that appear to have taken his time machine and have no intent to return it.
In the beginning of the story, the Time Traveler is in his home discussing his theories with a group of men one of whom is the narrator of the story we are reading.
The Time Traveler tells the men that he believes that time exists in the fourth dimension.The men are dubious about this idea. But the Time Traveler persists. He says that his theory, which he believes to be true, posits that an object, say a cube not only exists in space but also in time. He also insists that we should be able to move through time as we do through space. After all, we move forward in time constantly, why not backward? Or faster or slower? The Time Traveler brings out a miniature time machine about the size of a clock and explains that it is a real working time machine, showing the controls to the men. He asks for one of the guests to volunteer to push the lever on the machine’s side and when one does, the machine instantly disappears from his hand. The Time Traveler informs his guests that the little machine is now moving forward into the future at a rate far too quick for them to perceive. Having successfully impressed his guests, the Time Traveler then shows them a larger version of the same machine which he plans to use to explore time himself.
The narrator tells us that he, himself does not believe the Time Traveler as the other man has a tendency toward elaborate pranks but he and the other guests soon return to dine at the man’s house the next week and find him in a disheveled state. He is very dusty, his clothes torn. When their host leaves to clean himself up, the narrator suggests to the other men that perhaps he has been traveling in time since they saw him last. The other guests, men of reason, make incredulous and sarcastic replies. The Time Traveler soon returns to the room and informs the men that he has a story to tell about where he has been for the past week. However, he begs them not to interrupt and to save all comments for the end. The men agree and the Time Traveler begins his story.
Shortly after the men had left the week before, the Time Traveler got in his machine and pushed the lever forward so that he would be taken to the future. At first he pushes it gently, feels dizzy and then looks at his clock only to realize that five hours have mysteriously passed in an instant.
He presses the lever forward a little more this time and sees through his window that night and day are flying by outside in rapid succession.
All at once, the house around him disappears and he sees the outline of some tall buildings around him. The Time Traveler hesitates to stop his journey, worried that when he does he might be entombed inside of a solid object that has since appeared where his machine had been hundreds of years before. Frightened, he stops the machine suddenly and ends up flying out of it and headlong into the air.
The Traveler finds himself surrounded by large buildings and a statue of a white sphinx on a pedestal made of bronze. He begins to worry that humans have transformed into some other type of creature. He notices some figures in a nearby building watching him. The figures come out and surround him, speaking in a language he does not understand but finds pleasant nonetheless. The creatures have curly hair and large eyes. They are very thin but very beautiful as well. They lead him away from his machine but the Time Traveler remembers to take the control levers off of it first so that no one else will be able to use it. The Time Traveler is led into a tall building covered in hieroglyphics that he has never seen before. He discovers that he has landed in the year 802,701 A.D. He attempts to learn a few words of the creatures strange language but they soon grow tired of attempting to teach them and he leaves to walk around their civilization on his own.
The Time Traveler finds the ruins of a human city where all of the remaining creatures live together in what is left of the huge buildings. He notices that there are no outward markings of gender or age that differentiate the creatures. He assumes that they grew up in a peaceful land where they never had to experience any hardship but, he as is he relating the story, he warns that he soon found out that he was very, very wrong. As he is exploring, night quickly falls and the Time Traveler decides that he should leave and return to his own time. But as he approaches the area where he left his time machine he realizes that it seems to be gone.
Becoming frantic, the Time Traveler remembers that he still has the levers that make the machine work so it’s impossible that anyone could’ve mistakenly used it. However, someone has obviously moved it to another location. Desperate, the Time Traveler runs back into the hall where he’d conversed with the creatures and demands his machine back, confusing and frightening them. Having no luck there, he tries to calm himself down and reason where his time machine might have been taken. Since he was only away from the machine for a short time, he assumes that it cannot have been taken very far and concludes that it must be hidden in the pedestal of the huge white sphinx statue. He tries to pry open the statue’s pedestal but fails and tries to ask the creatures how to open it. When they react with shock, the Time Traveler decides that it is best to get to know them a little better before breaking open the statue.
He explores more of the area and pays more attention to the deep wells he had shrugged off earlier, noticing now that air seems to be somehow getting sucked down into them and that he can hear the noises of machinery emanating from within them. Having previously theorized that the creatures were the result of the fall of a spoiled, decadent generation of humans, the Time Traveler now revises that, realizing that he only sees buildings around him. Trying to get on the creatures good side and do a good deed, the Time Traveler manages to rescue one of them from drowning in a river. He discovers that the creature he rescued is a woman and that her name is Weena. She seems to have the personality of a precocious child to him. Like her kinsmen, she seems to be afraid of the dark and is very reluctant to let the Time Traveler sleep anywhere except in the protection of the buildings.
Early one morning, the Time Traveler thinks that he sees white figures moving around outside in the pre-dawn light. Soon he enters an old ruin and is startled to get a flash of two big eyes staring back at him. He then sees that the eyes are attached to a white ape-like animal which bolts when it sees him. He attempts to follow it but finds that it vanished down one of the nearby wells. The Time Traveler assumes that the ape creatures are subjugated and forced to live underground by the creatures he has befriended above ground. He learns from the surface men that they refer to themselves as Eloi and that the white ape creatures are called Morlocks. When he tries to ask more questions of Weena about the Morlocks she becomes upset and refuses to answer.
The Time Traveler decides that in order to get his machine back he needs to enter the underground world of the Morlocks. He crawls down into one of the wells, worrying Weena. It takes a while for the Time Traveler to descend into the bottom of the well and eventually he stops to rest in an alcove only to be woken by cold, clammy fingers. Lighting a match, he spooks several Morlocks who run off into the well. Following them, he discovers a huge chamber deep in the earth filled with pumping machines and Morlocks. The Time Traveler is frightened by the site and even more so by the sight of the Morlocks eating a meat dish that he assumes is the flesh of the Eloi and he escapes back up the well without being seen. He decides that he needs to find a way to defend against the Morlocks and more immediately, he needs to find a safe place to spend the night. He decides to sleep in a palace of green porcelain that he saw before climbing into the well. With Weena beside him he begins his journey to the palace but soon finds himself in the dark looking into a great forest.
The Time Traveler begins to reason that the reason that the Eloi are afraid to be out after dark is because it is the only time that the Morlocks can come out. He assumes that the Morlocks must be descended from a race that was enslaved and driven underground by the ancestors of the Eloi but that the Morlocks grew strong in the dark and now are even stronger than the Eloi. He imagines that both races are the descendants of man but that the taboos associated with cannibalism no longer apply which leaves the Morlocks free to devour the flesh of the Eloi. Afraid to enter the forest in the dark, the Traveler decides to set up camp on a hill where he keeps watch all night while Weena sleeps.
The next morning, the Time Traveler and Weena reach the palace of green porcelain and find that it is merely the husk of a destroyed museum. Still, the Time Traveler manages to scavenge some supplies to make torches until he an Weena hear the sound of approaching Morlocks. The Traveler breaks the lever off of a machine that had been a display and they flee. He intends to rush back to the area with the sphinx statue but finds that the journey takes longer than he intended because of his exhaustion.
Night falls again while they Traveler and Weena are attempting to cross the woods. As the enter the woods, the Traveler uses the torch supplies he procured to start a large fire so that no one may follow behind them. The fire spreads quickly in the forest and he and Weena begin to run again only to find themselves surrounded by Morlocks. The Time Traveler begins to use the lever he took from the museum as a weapon, swinging it wildly at the Morlocks and successfully killing a few. The rest of the Morlocks suddenly flee and the Time Traveler realizes that the fire he started has become a large forest fire. Unable to find Weena and assuming she fled, the Traveler runs after the Morlocks, hoping that they are running toward safety.
Finally, he arrives at a large hill filled with confused and now blinded Morlocks.
Realizing they are helpless, he no longer fears them and leaves in the morning to return to the sphinx statue, planning to pry open the pedestal with the lever. But when he gets back he finds that the pedestal is already open and he can see his time machine inside. He cleverly guesses what the Morlocks plan is, assuming that they will ambush him as soon as he is inside of the dark statue. But he goes in anyway and manages to struggle his way back into the machine even with Morlocks attacking him from every side. Jamming the lever back into the machine he pushes it forward and blasts himself into the future. Fleeing in fright, the Traveler flies into the future much faster than he did the first time. He travels hundreds and then thousands of years per second, watching the sun grow even bigger and more red and the earth slowly stop rotating.
When he finally stops the machine he finds himself on a beach. Plants and other vegetation have taken over every surface facing the sun and the air is remarkably thin. The traveler watches as a slow, red crab begins to move toward him on the beach. It turns out to be much larger than he’d first noticed and when he turns around he sees a second giant crab scuttling behind him. Still in his time machine, he quickly presses the lever forward and skips a month into the future of the beach to escape the crabs. However, this only causes more crabs to appear. He continues forward in time, watching the old earth disappear slowly until he finally comes to a stop some 30 million years in the future.
The air in this future is freezing cold and snowflakes drift down toward him. The only living thing he can see is lichen covering the beach. Some large object, perhaps the planet Mercury which he posits is now much closer to Earth, is passing in front of the sun. Complete darkness soon envelops the Traveler and overcome, he climbs back up into his machine. Before he can begin to travel backwards in time he notices a tentacled black blob flopping along the beach in the distance.
Finally, the Traveler is able to start to calm down as he travels backwards in time toward his home. He sees the walls of his house form around him again and even sees his maid walking backwards across the room. Finally checking that he has reached the right date, he stumbles out of the machine and finds his guests waiting for him in the dining room
This ends his spectacular story and leaves all of his learned, worldly guests speechless. For a moment, the narrator notices the Time Traveler panic and quickly rush to his machine, which is in his laboratory, covered in dirt and grass. The next day the narrator returns to speak to the Traveler again. The Traveler is preparing to leave on another journey in his machine and promises to be back in a half an hour with proof of his travels.
However, the narrator tells us that this conversation took place 3 years earlier and nothing has been heard of the Traveler ever since. The narrator wonders where the Traveler could be and only has two, small dried out flowers that Weena gave to the Traveler in the future to prove the incredible story that the man told.
The Time Traveler – the Time Traveler is the hero of the story, and he assumes control over the narrative from Chapter 3 until Chapter 12. He is a logical man, educated in contemporary speculations about relativity and a capable professional of the scientific method for theory, perception, experimentation, and conclusion (in spite of the fact that he openly concedes that a number of his initial hypotheses about the future world end up being incorrect).
He likewise starts his time traveling as an idealistic Social Darwinist, trusting human progress will constantly move forward, yet he reverses his musings once he watches the Eloi and the Morlocks. His only companion in the distant future is Weena, with whom he has something of a sentimental relationship. Her demise on account of the Morlocks stirs the Traveler’s profound detesting of the chimp like animals – a scorn which probably comes from the Traveler’s Victorian repugnance for the lower classes. Interestingly, he detests the Morlocks despite the fact that he comprehends, in Marxist phrasing, that they have been misled as the regular workers for so long.
Another extraordinary incongruity of the novel is that the Traveler, in his undertakings in the future world, gets to be somewhat primal. He brutally beats the Morlocks with gruff instruments or his clenched hands, and often utilizes primitive abilities – for example, lighting fires- – to kill them, despite his proper Victorian unbringing.
The Narrator – the Narrator of the main story is a generally unobtrusive character, particularly since he ventures out of the story from Chapter 3 to Chapter 12. In any case, he is the one individual from the Time Traveler’s dinner group who does not quickly dispose of the story offhand. By the novel’s end he trusts the Traveler’s tragic story, and is willing to neglect the cruel prescience of the future without bounds and grasp the present- – and maybe change the future all the while. In this sense, Wells utilizes the storyteller as a stand-in for his reader. He cautions us about what will happen on the off chance that we don’t change, and after that entreats us to change, as the storyteller appears to do.
Weena – the main person from the Eloi settlement that the Time Traveler becomes acquainted with, Weena displays all the great and awful qualities of this future race. The Eloi are developed individuals descended from high society, yet they are not more advanced creatures, as Social Darwinists would accept. Or maybe, their idealistic human advancement has made them feeble, physically and rationally; they are delightful yet languid, delicate, and imbecilic animals who can do nothing for themselves.
The Morlocks, the developed, nighttime, Underworld individuals from the common laborers, are currently the genuine bosses; they breed the Eloi like steer for nourishment and stalk them during the evening. Weena follows the Traveler after he spares her from dying, and it is through her conduct – particularly her trepidation of the dark – that the Traveler makes sense of much about the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks. She even builds up a semi sentimental association with the Traveler, and her passing impels the Traveler’s horrible stand against the Morlocks.