The Time Machine | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Time Machine | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

As the full moon rises, the Time Traveller looks back to where he left the time machine only to discover it has vanished. Terrified, he races back to the little lawn where he landed. Now he feels the presence of an unseen but powerful force, because he does not believe the little people are strong enough to have moved the machine. Searching the area, he startles some sort of white animal that he takes for a "small deer," but he does not find the machine. Weeping, the Time Traveller falls asleep.

The next morning he wakes up, determined to make the best of his situation. If he cannot find the machine, he will learn the ways of this new civilization. He may be able to make another machine. Questioning the little people, he gets no help. Examining the lawn more closely, he notices a single groove and narrow footprints leading to the pedestal on which the White Sphinx stands. Knocking on the pedestal, he discovers it is hollow, which leads him to believe the machine is inside. He bangs away at the bronze to no avail.

Giving up on the pedestal, he explores the surrounding countryside. He comes across "certain circular wells," huge and ringed with bronze. He hears a thudding motion from below, which he concludes is part of some sort of "subterranean ventilation" system.

That same day, he rescues a drowning woman from the river. Her name is Weena. She follows him wherever he goes, and they become a pair. He meets a "queer little ape-like figure" that runs away when he touches it. Following it, he watches as it climbs down a ladder on the inside of one of the wells. Now he wonders if "Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals." But what is this creature's role? And what is down below?

He concludes that "this second species" has evolved as an underground creature. That is why it is white, like most animals that live in the dark. It has large eyes and avoids the daylight. There must be a vast system of underground tunnels. All of this, he concludes, is the inevitable result of a "gradual widening" of the gap between the capitalist and the laborer. The latter built the subways and railroads. The former got better educated and more refined. So now "above ground you must have the Haves ... and below ground the Have-nots," as the workers became more and more adapted to being laborers. Meanwhile, the "Upper-worlders" had suffered "a general dwindling of size, strength, and intelligence." The future success of humankind has not turned out to be one of "general co-operation." Instead, there are Morlocks and Eloi, as he discovers they are called.

Analysis

In Chapter 5, the Time Traveller discovers the "secret" to this land, the reason he has felt a certain level of discomfort and mystery. There are actually two sets of creatures living in it: the Eloi, the little people; and the Morlocks, the nearly blind, white, primate-like creatures that live underground. The themes of evolution and class struggle surface here.

Charles Darwin famously articulated, although he did not actually initiate, the concept of evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. This work holds that organisms on Earth develop from earlier, simpler forms into more complex forms. They also diversify, as early primate forms developed into one branch consisting of gorillas and chimpanzees and another made up of hominids and Home sapiens. The Time Traveller sees that humankind has continued to develop and diversify, but not in a single straight line. Instead, it has evolved into two separate species—one weaker and the other stronger; one technologically able and the other incompetent.

The Morlocks can clearly build and run complex machines. The Eloi cannot. Yet the Morlocks are "ape-like." They fit the negative stereotype of a working-class laborer as uncultured, unintelligent, and boorish. On the other hand, the Eloi seem to have become weak and unable to fend for themselves from generations of being a ruling class with servants and laborers doing all the work. They are true capitalists, the ones with the money and the ownership of the means of production—corporations and factories—yet they themselves produce nothing. In this future land, the social classes of the 19th century have evolved into separate species of humans.

Documents for Chapter 5

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Questions for Chapter 5

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