The Time Machine | Study Guide

H. G. Wells

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The Time Machine | Epilogue | Summary



Three years later, the Narrator wonders whether the Time Traveller will ever return. He wonders if he returned to the past and was perhaps killed by savage cave people. Or did he go into the future again and find a happier, stronger society than he did the first time? He remembers that the Time Traveller did not believe that humankind necessarily advances over time. In fact, it may eventually destroy itself. If that is so, concludes the Narrator, then it is up to readers to live "as though it were not so." He comforts himself with two strange white flowers, the ones the Time Traveller took from his pocket. They remind him that "even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man."


Wells leaves the reader with a tease of an ending. The Time Traveller never comes back. Wells suggests positive and negative outcomes; by doing so, he leaves the door wide open. The Time Traveller could have been killed by humans at least as violent as the Morlocks. However, he could also have found a society so much more developed than the present, "with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome problems solved," that he elected to stay there.

Seeming to speak through his protagonist, Wells concludes that present civilization is but a "foolish heaping," a piling up of who knows what for no clear or useful reason. However, he also seems to speak through the Narrator as well when he follows that statement with an actual call to action. People have to live their lives so as not to go in that direction but in a better one. The land of the Eloi and Morlocks is a warning. This is where people are headed unless they change their ways.

The very last sentence of the story serves two important functions. By returning to the hard evidence the Time Traveller brought back, it encourages the reader to "believe" his story, to take it as true, at least as true as fiction. By affirming that even with humankind at a very low ebb—Eloi and Morlocks without real "mind and strength"—"mutual tenderness" still endures. The reader can be hopeful. Love still conquers all—perhaps. So the story within a story has, if a bittersweet ending, at least one more sweet than bitter.

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