Places: The Time Machine

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1895 (serial form, Science Schools Journal, April-June, 1888; National Observer, March-June, 1894; and New Review, January-May, 1895)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Places DiscussedTime Traveller’s home

Time Time Machine, TheTraveller’s home. Although it is reasonable to infer that Wells’s unnamed traveler lives in London–and probably southwest London–nothing in the novel locates his home precisely. His home is a large upper-middle-class house typical of homes of its class in the late nineteenth century. Wells takes pains to make the home warm and welcoming, comfortable and convivial. It appears to be popular with visitors, as the two times the house is mentioned in the novel it is the setting of well-attended dinner parties that bring together intelligent and well-connected men. The guests are identified only by their professions, for example, such as the Medical Man and the Editor. There are also servants and other indications that the Time Traveller is wealthy. Thus, the home in which the Time Traveller tells his story is a place of both solid reality and aspiration, the height of ambition for Wells’s audience. This is the measure of achievement, the sign that these intelligent and comfortable Victorians really are the peak of evolution.

Eloi world

Eloi world. The Time Traveller’s first stop in the remote future. Although it occupies the same space as the Time Traveller’s home, the world of the Eloi is separated from it by some 800,000 years. That fact alone expresses Wells’s primary Darwinian purpose: to demonstrate that evolution will continue beyond the world he and his readers know. This setting is, at first, a pastoral idyll, a place of green fields, strange flowers, and a curious innocence. Soon, however, a different impression is created, as the Time Traveller notices the decaying buildings, the sense of things running down, and in particular the sense that the inhabitants of this world, the Eloi, are, though pretty and innocent, also in decline. This is emphasized in his visit to the Palace of Green Porcelain, once a great museum though now most of its exhibits have rotted away; the age of human achievement is long passed.

Morlock world

Morlock world. Though visited only once and very briefly, the underground realm of the Morlocks forms a constant counterpoint to the pastoral simplicity of the world of the Eloi. It is a lightless world, a world of dark oppression, and the Morlocks are as much its victims as anyone else. There is a sense of machinery, though the reader never encounters it directly.

Beach

Beach. After finally escaping the world of the Eloi and the Morlocks, the Time Traveller flees to a point in the far distant future when the world is coming to an end. In one of the most effective and influential scenes in the whole of science fiction, he describes a tideless sea and desolate shore, all bathed in the dim, red light of a huge and unmoving Sun. Far out across the water one lone, dark shape flops hopelessly. Given the scientific knowledge of Wells’s time, it is an accurate portrait of one possible end-of-the-world scenario–with the Moon gone, the Sun’s energy failing, Earth pulled from its orbit and losing its rotation, with only the steady approach to the dying sun preventing it being a completely frozen waste. It is also an effective metaphor for the message of evolution: All this must pass.

BibliographyBergonzi, Bernard, ed. H. G. Wells: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976. Two critical essays on The Time Machine. One addresses the novel as myth, the other as prophecy. Readable and informative.Costa, Richard Hauer. H. G. Wells. New York: Twayne, 1967. Multiple references to The Time Machine, with critical references. A good starting place.Hammond, J. R. H. G. Wells and Rebecca West. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Associates the novel with the writer’s scientific understanding of the human species and with his interest in a fourth dimension. Illustrated. Bibliography.Hammond, J. R. H. G. Wells and the Modern Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Finds Wells a deserving and overlooked, innovative writer. One analytical chapter calls The Time Machine a “watershed in the coming of modernism.” Appendix, notes, bibliography, and index. Evocative, scholarly, readable.Wells, H. G., Julian S. Huxley, and G. P. Wells. The Science of Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1934. Describes Wells’s study of science and his consequent understanding of human life.
Categories: Places