The Time Machine | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Time Machine | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

This time, the Time Traveller is only halfway seated, so the ride is even more turbulent than before. Looking at the speed dial, he sees he is racing farther into the future. The grayness around him grows darker. The alternation of night and day slows until there is just a constant twilight. The sun stops setting, growing broader and redder, until it simply stops dead in the sky. Carefully, the Time Traveller slows his machine to a stop.

He finds himself on a sloping beach. The sky overhead is a deep red. The sea is totally calm. The only sign of life is green vegetation growing on one side of the reddish rocks. He has to breathe rapidly, as the air is thin. Hearing a scream, he looks up to see something similar to a huge white butterfly disappearing behind a hill. From the beach, a dark red "monster crab" that he at first thought was a rock is heading toward him. Feeling a touch on his cheek, he turns to see the antenna of another huge crab behind him. Shoving down a lever, he shoots a month ahead.

However, he is still on the same shore. Dozens of the crabs are scuttling around. He drives on into the future, stopping every thousand years or so, until 30 million years later, he finds the crabs are gone. The air is very cold. Big white snowflakes are falling. The only sign of life is the "green slime" still on the rocks. The sky darkens, and he sees that a solar eclipse is taking place. The air is still and absolutely soundless. As the sky goes dark, he shivers and feels nauseous. He sees something black moving in the "blood-red" water. The size of a soccer ball, it has tentacles and is flopping around. Feeling helpless and full of dread, he almost faints. He sets himself in his seat, ready to take off again.

Analysis

In between the first and second paragraphs of this chapter, Wells originally had more material, which appeared in its first published version, the serialization in the New Review magazine. However, this section was cut when the story was published in book form. It was later reprinted as a short story called The Grey Man.

Briefly, the missing five paragraphs describe an "uneven stretch of cheerless plateau" with no visible buildings or signs of human habitation. However, the Time Traveller soon sees two living organisms. First are 20 or so gray animals about the size of "a small kangaroo," with fur like a Skye terrier, five digits on both hands and feet, and round heads. He cannot tell whether or not they are human. They could be "grey men." He stuns one with a rock. Immediately, over a ridge a 3-foot-tall, 30-foot-long segmented giant centipede appears. As it heads for him, he races back to his time machine and shoots into the future, speculating at how insects seem ultimately to have dominated the world and disturbed at what little seems left of humanity, the "grey vermin," as he calls them.

What is the effect of removing this section? Doing so obviously avoids the presentation of a further evolution of human beings. There are no social issues here and little interaction with the creatures he encounters, so perhaps there is little real point in including it. Also, the Time Traveller's use of the rock puts him in a bad light as he tries to kill what may be a member of his own species. This jars with the reader's previous concept of the man. This inconsistency may have been the final reason to make the cut. Until now, he has seemed relatively faultless, a good man. Furthermore, the remaining scenes have similarly unattractive creatures, so there is also an element of redundancy with regard to the removed portion.

What remains of Chapter 11 certainly presents a bleak picture of the far future. It makes for a very pessimistic end to the book. The Eloi and Morlocks have apparently not evolved into any improvement of their species or situation, but only a worse deterioration. With "The Grey Man" removed, now there is absolutely no human element remaining in the world. The images of light and dark reappear, but they are twisted. Now, white is associated only with a grotesque butterfly and huge, unstopping snowflakes. The sky, the land, the monster crabs, and the creature with tentacles are all dark, all menacing, all evil. There is nothing of cheer in this world. This is the most somber, depressing passage in the whole book. Wells shocks the reader to impart a clear message. Ahead lies doom and more doom if humankind does not work to improve matters now.

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