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The Time Machine | Symbols



Flowers are important symbols in The Time Machine. They are the "mauve and purple" rhododendron blooms the Time Traveller notices when he first lands on the little lawn in Chapter 3. They are bright spots in the hailstorm, symbolic of the good he will find. Of course, rhododendrons are a shrub of the present as well. They serve as a bridge between the two times he inhabits. The Eloi connection with flowers is very strong. One bedecks him with "a chain of beautiful flowers" when he first meets him. The afternoon of the day he saves Weena, she presents him with a "big garland" of flowers. They seem to be an expression of love or affection whose meaning has not died even after thousands of years. Then, of course, there are the two white flowers that the Time Traveller brings back. This particular pair represents the tender feelings between another pair, himself and Weena. She picked them and put them in one of his pockets. Their color symbolizes purity and innocence, that of the Eloi, who, whatever their failings, can still care and love.

Eloi and Morlocks

The Eloi represent the elitism of the rich who bask in their wealth and do not work to contribute to civilization. While they are beautiful and graceful, they are unintelligent and lazy. The Hebrew word Elohim, meaning "God," may be the origin of the term Eloi, suggesting a fall from grace. On the other hand, the Morlocks represent the poor working class who maintain survival skills at the cost of their physical, emotional, social, and psychological lives. The Latin root mor, meaning "death," is suggestive of the origin of the term Morlocks, implying a kind of living death.

White Sphinx

The White Sphinx is the first thing the Time Traveller sees upon arriving in the future. It is both a fantasy, a guardian, a warning, and a mystery. A mythical creature combining features of several real creatures—lion, human, eagle—the White Sphinx foreshadows the Eloi and Morlock who are also human–animal hybrids. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was the ominous guardian of the city of Thebes. If a person guessed the riddle, he passed. If he didn't, he was killed. It is a warning to the Time Traveller. Ultimately, the White Sphinx will turn out to guard the time machine for the Morlocks. Finally, with its riddle it is a mystery, as is this land in which the Time Traveller has just landed.


Machines represent hope, but also danger. The time machine enables the Time Traveller to transcend one of the basic limitations of the universe. It has incredible power but takes him to a vicious land. The subways, railroads, and factory machinery of the 19th century Industrial Revolution represent progress, but they also destroy the environment and dehumanize workers. The Morlocks' ventilators allow them to exist, but to what purpose other than to prey on the Eloi? The machine is both the greatest and perhaps the worst outcome of the human capacity for inventiveness and progress.

Light, Dark, and Fire

The associations with good and evil are evident throughout. As the Time Traveller travels, sun and moon and day and night shift, as does the Time Traveller's mood between joy and fear. The Morlocks live and thrive only in the dark. The coming of night fills both the Eloi and the Time Traveller with fear. The desolate shore of the far future has a black sky, inhabited first by dark-red monster crabs and, second, by a black-tentacled creature. By contrast, firelight is safety and life. The white of the two flowers he brings back represents the affection between himself and Weena, the only such feeling seen in the book. Only in the twisted far future world do the white butterfly and snowflakes disrupt this association.

Fire appears as the ancient protector of humankind. It protects the Time Traveller from the Morlocks with the matches he uses when he visits their tunnel, the campfires he lights to keep them away, and the wildfire that eventually drives them off. However, it is also the likely cause of Weena's death. Often a symbol of purification, the fire cannot cleanse this land of the Morlocks; it can only keep them temporarily at bay.

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