What is HG Wells trying to achieve with his novel The Time Machine
Written by H.G. Wells, the story of ‘The Time Machine’ is regarded by some as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. It puts forward many views towards time travel, communism and other types of leadership which H.G. Wells felt strongly for, and also against.
Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866 in Kent, England. His father was a professional cricket player and shopkeeper, and his mother, a former lady’s maid. He took lots of short part-time jobs, including a teacher’s assistant at a grammar school before going to college to study biology, where he graduated in 1888.
He was influenced by a number of other writers at that time, notably Jules Verne, and he wrote his first novel ‘The Time Machine’, partly in response to the kind of writing Verne produced. The Time Machine was released as a book in 1895. This book was successful and ensured that he would not have to worry about money, or get another job in the future.
After this H.G. Wells wrote a number of other novels, with the most well known ones being, ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’, ‘The Invisible Man’, and ‘The War Between The Worlds’. H.G. Wells is now sometimes named ‘the father of modern science fiction’. He died on the 13th August 1946, whilst working on a project that dealt with the dangers of nuclear war.
The novel begins with the Time Traveller explaining his theories about the fourth dimension to a group of friends and associates gathered at his home for a weekly dinner. Most of the men present follow his explanations, agree in theory to most of his observations, but quickly become sceptical when the Time Traveller moves from speaking of the nature of time, to the possibility of moving within it. Their disbelief only increases when the Time Traveller offers to supply evidence to support his theories, bringing a small model into the smoking room. Made of metal, ivory and quartz, the machine, as the Time Traveler explains, is a replica of a full sized machine that he has built in his laboratory, and on which he plans to explore time.
With his guests watching, he demonstrates the use of the machine, pushing a lever, which causes the model to disappear, into the future, the Time Traveller claims. Most of the men are initially disturbed by the presentation, not quite sure what to think, but most come to believe that the Time Traveller has been playing a trick on them, and easily dismiss his assertion that he plans to explore time within the next week.
The following Thursday, another group of men gather at the Time Traveller’s house, and find that the host is not at home, but has left a note asking them to start without him. They do so, entertaining themselves with guesses as to why the narrator is not present, when their host enters, dishevelled, dirty, and limping.
The Time Traveller returns after washing and changing clothes, to tell the story of his morning, in which he travelled eight days. After dinner, the men gather around him to hear the uninterrupted story. The Time Traveller then tells them that this very morning his machine was finished, and he soon departed into the future.
He explains that at first he could only pay attention to the sensation of time travelling, which makes him feel queasy. Once he regains his full sentences, he begins to be able to observe more fully the speed at which he is travelling, as well as the world as time passes. He watches the swiftly changing scenery and then decides to stop to see what the future holds. His stop is sudden, throwing him from the machine into the grass. He finds he Is in the same location as his laboratory, but in the year 802701.
He first encounters the Eloi, who approach him soon after his arrival, leading him into a large structure in which they eat and sleep. The Time Traveller partakes a fruit feast with the Eloi, and explores the area around the structure, observing and making judgements about the nature of the future, which quickly are shown to be incorrect. When he is in the field next, he realizes that his machine has been moved; to where, he cannot figure out. In the next few days, the Time Traveller continues to explore the area, and in the process befriends one particular Eloi named Weena, who he saves from drowning. The Time Traveller, who normally sleeps outside, eventually meets the Morlocks, the other species who inhabit the planet in 802701.
He descended down a well to the underground lair where the Morlocks lived, and fought his way back to his time machine using a metal bar and some matches. After a big struggle he finally sends himself away, but mistakenly starts going forwards to time. After millions of years he sees that the moon has disappeared, the earth has stopped rotating, and the sun just bobbed on the horizon. After being attacked by a crab-like creature he went forward again until he saw the earth grow cold and dark, with a frightening eclipse of the sun, and the last remnants of life.
Back at home he still tries to prove his journey through time, but still only the narrator really believed him, despite pulling out an unknown species of flower that Weena has given him. The narrator dropped by the next day, and as he was just about to leave he just remembered that he needed to tell the Time Traveller something, and rushed into his laboratory just in time to see the time machine vanish.
H.G. Wells, as well as being a well-known English novelist, was also a sociologist, a historian and a scientist, and his style of writing showed this. He wrote like a scientist, with very little emotion, passion or dialogue in his work, and wrote using descriptive writing as if he was writing up a practical experiment. Here is an example of this from the narration,
“The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses.”
If the quote was simply, ‘The fire burned brightly and the light caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses,’ you would think nothing of it. But because Wells adds the extra scientific adjectives and extra sentences of describing where a simple sentence would have been sufficient, it is an example which makes Wells style of writing stand out plainly and clearly to the readers. For a very unimportant sentence in the book the quote is rather long for just describing the fireplace and their glasses that they were holding, and it seems unnecessary to describe these sorts of objects which are meaningless to the storyline.
Well’s wrote like this because he thought it would make people take this novel seriously for its political and social context, not merely its creativeness, and the fact that it was written a little bit like an account would make important politicians and leaders of the time notice his work. He didn’t want people to think of his book a fictional novel like other authors at the time
Wells obviously had an interest about these sorts of unfamiliar topics at the time, as could be seen from his other novels e.g. The Invisible Man, A Modern Utopia, The Discovery of the Future, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and as these topics were completely impertinent and un-heard of in Victorian England, he must have had an extraordinary imagination to have been able to think up such ideas. Could this have been because he was alive during a time as beneficial as the industrial revolution when everything began to change, since something like germs existed then why couldn’t another dimension too?
Wells also used an unidentified third person narrator to do his story telling, he does this because he wants his writing to seem more impersonal and more real, and less of the normal ‘ I did this’ or ‘I did that’. It makes it seem like the narrator was with the Time Traveller constantly but of course he was nowhere in the story except at Time Traveller’s dinner parties, e.g. “The Time Traveller pushed his glass towards the silent man and rang it with his fingernail; at which the Silent Man, who had been staring at his face, started convulsively, and poured him some wine.”
The Time Traveller himself speaks in direct speech whilst he was either talking to the guests or the Eloi, or thinking to himself, where he used a lot of hypothetical questions, and could spend a whole page describing something like a building to the exact detail, e.g. “As the columns of hail grew thinner, I saw the white figure more distinctly. It was very large, for a silver birch-tree touched it’s shoulder. It was of white marble, in the shape something like a winged sphinx, but the wings, instead of being carried vertically at the sides, were spread so that it seemed to hover…”And so it goes on.
Well’s is trying to achieve more interest and make people wonder what could be about to happen with the hypothetical questions and trying to give the readers the picture that he wants to create with the very accurate descriptions, he doesn’t want people’s imaginations straying too far off of what Wells wants them to think.
In general, the pseudo-scientific lo lend credence to the reality of the tale together with a dispassionate look at things that happen in the future make the reader focus on what is being said and less on how it is said. Which strips away any real involvement with the characters and makes you focus on the story itself and the message Wells is trying to give.
Wells was very much a political author. He had definite points he wished to make in his books about the state of not just the nation, but the whole world. The Time Machine was one of his earliest novels and when first written was called a ‘scientific romance’, rather than Science Fiction. Interestingly enough, a book has been written by Ronald Wright, called ‘A Scientific Romance’, which is a modern novel detailing what happened when the time machine returned to London.
After Well’s had witnessed the first world war he proceeded to write more non-fiction books, and undoubtedly told people that war was wrong:
“The professional military mind is by necessity an inferior and unimaginative mind; no man of high intellectual quality would willingly imprison his gifts in such calling.” (from The Outline of History 1920)
He went on in that book to give profoundly pessimistic views about mankinds future prospects, as he did in his earlier novel, The Time Machine where he went forward until the world was nothing but a shocking wasteland with barely anything left living. Well’s felt that writing so convincingly about it might make people actually think about what they were doing to ruin the planet.
“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” (The Outline of History 1920)
Well’s passionate concern for society led Well’s to join the socialist Fabien Society in London. The Fabian Society was an intellectual movement concerned with the research, discussion, and publication of socialist ideas. The Fabians believed that social reform could be achieved by a new political approach of gradual and patient argument, ‘permeating’ their ideas into the circles of those with power; they aimed for democratic socialism throughout London. Wells was a member of this group for a few years before he had a falling out with the leaders of the party and left. This certainly tells us a lot about Well’s political views and helps you understand more closely the remarks and points he has put in the Time Machine novel.
It has also been said that Well’s was a supporter of communism which explains why he had these views against capitalism and people at a different hierarchy. He has also been recorded to have had some aimable converstions with Lenin and Stalin apres Russian Revolution to further this idea.
The main political theme in the Time Machine is that capitalism is dangerous, and harmful to the workers, the connection Is that the Eloi are the lazy upper class supposedly unintelligent people from 19th century London, whilst The Morlocks are the working class. The point Wells tries to make is that for people to be rich and powerful, others have to be suffering for this to happen, an example in modern day society are big sports brands like ‘Nike’ or ‘Adidas’, who are multi-million pound companies, but the people who suffer for their wealth are the poor people who make their goods for nothing in third world countries.
The second theme in the story was that unlike everyone at the time thought, humankind will not continue to develop forever, and there will be a time when backwards steps will be made. Wells changed this idea that the world would continue to improve and science would always get more advanced, with the idea that war could leave two very basic groups of people who were very uncivilised as the only people left on the earth.
My opinion is that Wells tried to make people realise that if you all live too easily you will turn in to Eloi and sit and do nothing all day, and that Morlocks are a result of Capitalism gone mad, with the lower class rebelling against the upper classes to result in chaotic circumstances. Of course he made this clear that these changed would not happen immediately, but long periods of time, and he tried to warn people that if you don’t do anything about it now then terrible things could happen in the future.
In conclusion, the Time Machine by H.G. Wells was a very successful book that has been made into two films and has had numerous attempts to continue the story where Wells left off. It was meant to tell an interesting story but also to put forward views about capitalism and evolution. Even though Wells didn’t use the most flowing and spectacular language, and used very scientific and dispassionate language, this didn’t halt the success of the book.
The main key ideas in the book are, is Capitalism dangerous? Could Communism solve societies’ problems? Will all the hard work that has been put in to make the world such an advanced place be wasted in the future? Are complex theories such as Time Travel possible? This book has made scholars and philosophers think about these ideas and many books regarding time travel e.g. Back to the Future, communism and capitalism e.g. Animal Farm, and evolution e.g. Planet of the Apes have been written and made into films because of H.G. Wells and his incredible imagination and interesting political views.
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