The Time Machine | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Time Machine | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

The following Thursday, the dinner guests meet again at the house in Richmond. When the Narrator arrives, he finds the Medical Man standing in the dining room. He is holding a sheet of paper and his watch. There are several other men in the room. Beside the Narrator and the Medical Man are the Psychologist, the Editor ("of a well-known daily paper"), a Journalist, and a Silent Man.

The Medical Man announces that he holds a note from the Time Traveller. He is "unavoidably detained," and they should start dinner if he is not back. So they do. Suddenly, the Time Traveller appears in the doorway. His coat is filthy. His hair is a mess. He is pale and he looks exhausted. He announces that he is "all right." He is going to go upstairs, bathe and dress, then rejoin them. Then he says, he will "explain things."

When the Time Traveller returns and they have all finished eating, the Time Traveller says he will tell them his story if they do not interrupt him or argue with him. He admits that "most of it will sound like lying" but says he has lived eight days—"such days as no human being ever lived before"—since that morning. As he tells his story in the darkened room, his pale face lit by a single lamp, all eyes are upon him.

Analysis

Wells ramps up the stakes for time travel by inviting two new guests to this dinner, the Editor and the Journalist. They are even more skeptical than the others, and their reactions to the time travel story they are about to hear only emphasize its extraordinary quality, making it all the more amazing. Not all of the guests at the first dinner are present but, notably, the two most scientific, the Medical Man and the Psychologist, are. The fact that they do not express as much skepticism makes the time travel story more believable by default.

Wells gives the Time Traveller a dramatic sudden appearance, interrupting the dinner. The details of his scant clothing are teasers. Where on earth has he been, the reader wonders? Clearly somewhere dangerous. Wells doesn't reveal the story right away. He sends the Time Traveller off to clean up, forcing the reader to wait with anticipation.

When the Time Traveller remarks that he is going to describe a trip "no human being ever lived before," the drama is at its height for the beginning of his story. In true cliff-hanger style, the reader doesn't get the rest of the story until the next chapter begins. Chapter 2 is thus more plot than a philosophical section. After all the introductory theorizing, the reader is finally going to get an account of the Time Traveller's trip. The story within the story, the tale in the frame, is about to make its appearance.

Documents for Chapter 2

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Questions for Chapter 2

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