The Time Machine | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Time Machine | Chapter 10 | Summary



At about 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., the Time Traveller arrives back where he landed. Watching some Eloi playing and swimming, he realizes that the Eloi are for the Morlocks an abundant source of food that have only a vague idea of the danger they are in and what their end will be. The human mind, he feels, has "committed suicide" by seeking ease and security. Now there is an "Upper-world" and an "Under-world," with the inhabitants of the latter having retained more initiative and edge.

As he approaches the White Sphinx, he discovers to his surprise that there are doors in the bronze pedestal that are open. Inside he glimpses his time machine on a raised platform. Furthermore, it has been oiled and cleaned. He enters and the doors slam shut. He laughs, as he has expected all of this. All he has to do is light a match and be on his way. However, to his horror he discovers that his matches need the rough strip on the side of a matchbox to be lit. He has no matchbox. As the Morlocks clutch at him, he swings out with the two small levers to the machine that he removed when he first landed and has kept with him all this time. Struggling against the Morlocks, he manages to fit the levers back onto the machine and throw one forward. The Morlocks' hands fall away. He lifts off again, traveling in time.


In this chapter, the Time Traveller comes to the final truth about this society, which was not apparent to him when he first landed. This land is based on the violent exploitation of one class of human beings by another. The nature of this violence is underlined by the comparison of the Eloi to cattle. They are innocent, nonviolent, vegetarian, unintelligent, and unable to think for, or defend, themselves. It is interesting to see that, rather than feeling a deep sympathy for them, the Time Traveller almost blames them for their own situation, describing them as "suicides." They are the ultimate outcome of the leisured upper class, the capitalists, which has neither worked nor been challenged for generations. He implies that they have no one to blame but themselves.

Furthermore, the picture he paints of this species is not pretty. They are silly, ineffective, and unproductive. They play, swim, laugh, and make daisy chains. Without saying it, he seems to have contempt for them. Compare them to the Morlocks, who, despite their savagery and cannibalism, nonetheless are somehow maintaining a vast complex of large, complicated, well-oiled, and smoothly running machines. They have some sort of command structure that enables them to steal and hide his machine, and coordinate effective attacks above ground. The implication is that the formerly oppressed workers, the laborer class, have continued to develop by dint of being challenged, although Wells also implies that, psychologically and morally, they are lesser beings. In an example of situational irony, those on the bottom are now on the top. And it is perhaps less their doing than the lack of doing on the part of the upper class. Wells's implied warning is clear. Educated readers must make some changes in their society.

In the dramatic scene inside the "small apartment" of the pedestal, Wells returns to the exciting plot. This is a compressed life-and-death moment. What situational irony that only with a club and fire can this technological genius, the Time Traveller, save his life and escape his situation. In a climactic fight, he outwits, but only barely outfights, the Morlocks to make his escape. Wells gives the reader—in just one part—both deep, thought-provoking social theory and a blueprint for action, as well as a pulse-pounding, viscerally exciting story.

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