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The Time Machine | Themes

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Class Struggle

Through the Eloi and Morlocks, Wells satirizes the English Victorian class system and the wide gulf between the ruling capitalists and the working laborers. The upper class are the Eloi—increasingly stupid, ineffectual, and childlike. They just eat, sleep, and play. The working class are the Morlocks—overworked, uneducated, literally an invisible "underground" of servitude for the rest of society. Neither the Eloi nor the Morlocks are desirable outcomes for humanity.

The Time Machine is less the story of an individual than of groups—namely, the narrow-minded dinner guests, the Eloi and the Morlocks, and the capitalist and laborer classes of Victorian England that the Narrator and Time Traveller mention so often.

Love and Intelligence

In The Time Machine, human survival is tied to the ability to connect with others and form communities. The Time Traveller seems to be a man without community in both the present and the future because he lacks emotional and intellectual connections with others. Yet, the qualities of love and intelligence allow him to build communal attachments when he develops feelings for Weena and connects emotionally with the Eloi. The development of a sense of community or home is a natural extension of the human quest for survival.

Time Travel, Technology, and Science

The basic effort of the protagonist, the Time Traveller, is to overcome the limitation of time with technology and science through his time machine. Science is the answer, the avenue to truth—not religion or philosophy. And technology, in the form of a complex ventilation system, is what allows the Morlocks to survive. Finally, in the Palace of Green Porcelain, the museum of the organized, combined scientific inquiry of mankind, is what provides the means for the Time Traveller's survival and escape.

Evolution

Charles Darwin's 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, first brought evolution to the attention of the general public. The Time Machine shows readers a projection of one direction evolution might take. As people have evolved from chimpanzees and other primates, so people evolve into Eloi and Morlocks. But this is not the result of environmental factors such as coming down from trees. Instead, it is the result of social aspects. Wells sees two classes—ruling and working—and he sees them with a wide gulf between them. He believes that evolution will continue, is continuing, and that the hapless Eloi and violent Morlocks are the result.

Utopia and Dystopia

The Time Traveller specifically mentions "Utopian books" in Chapter 5. He may be thinking of Sir Thomas More's original Utopia (1516) or News from Nowhere (1890) by William Morris (a contemporary of Wells). The Time Traveller seems to assume, as does perhaps the reader, that when he travels into the future, he will find an improved society—better than the present one. Otherwise, why would he go? Yet, he finds a dystopia. It is through working through the causes of the dystopia that Wells is able to comment on his present society and imply what needs to be done to improve it.

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