The Time Machine
I chose to write about The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I decided to read this book because Wells writes about two scientific themes that have always interested me. As the name of the book implies, one of the themes that Wells delves into is time travel. The other theme is human evolution. In the book, the main character, whose name is never mentioned, creates a time machine and travels to 802, 701 AD. While in the future, he encounters a group of humans called Eloi. The Time Traveller spends time with the Elois and learns much about them. I enjoyed this book, and I personally loved Wells’s view on how he believes human evolution will be like in the future. Although the book mentions two major themes of science, I will focus on the evolution part of this book. I am particularly fascinated with human evolution because humans can evolve at so many levels. We are able to evolve at the molecular level as well as on a societal level. In the book, Wells mentions that Eloi are physically different than humans today, but the biggest change was the way Eloi behaved. I think that the topic of human evolution is something that fascinates many people, and I believe that Wells paints an excellent picture of what he sees the future of humans may be like.
Herbert George Wells was and English writer born on September 21, 1866. Wells is most known for War of the Worlds, Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine. Although he was best known for his fiction writings, Wells also wrote books in other genres such as history and politics.
Wells was the last of four children of Joseph Wells and Sarah Neal. Wells’s father was a shopkeeper and professional cricket player, and his mother was a lady’s maid. As you can tell, Wells did not live in a life of luxury. Wells’s mother placed very strict puritanical religious views on him. His mother fed him scary ideas of burning in hell. Wells’s quickly stopped believing in God and religion. Wells became a draper’s apprentice whenever his family was experiencing financial burdens. He disliked being a draper and eventually quit, and went on to pursue an education. He was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to the Normal School in London.
His professor Thomas Huxley heavily influenced Well’s life. Huxley’s views on Darwinian evolution shaped the foundation of Wells’s beliefs. Wells also said, “that year I spent in Huxley’s class was beyond all questions, the most educations year of my life.” (WellsExper) Although it seemed that Wells would have gone on to be a scientist, H.G Wells went on to the literature route. However, Wells ended up dropping out of the Normal School of Science after his third year. Wells had to make a way to earn money, and he ended up finding a teaching job at a boarding school in Wales (Harris 19). While teaching at the boarding school, Wells was hit by a student during a game of soccer, which caused damage to his kidney and also crushed a blood vessel in his lung (Harris 19). Wells was diagnosed with Tuberculosis while he was recovering from his accident. He did not die, but while recovering, he had the chance to read a lot of literature from a library. The exposure he had to the literature helped develop his own ideas for writing.
Wells’s first big hit was The Time Machine. This book was very successful, and his career as a writer took off from this first book. His science background had much to do with his writing style and his views on certain issues. In the book The Time Machine, Wells writes about evolution and time travel. Wells also incorporates issues faced during his time. For example, in his book The Island of Doctor Moreau, Wells brings to light the issue of vivisection. During his time vivisection was seen as unnecessary cruelty. Wells’s work has had much influence on other works of fiction.
The story begins with the Time Traveller, an English scientist, discussing with his weekly dinner guests about the fourth dimension, which is time. The Time Traveller tells his dinner guest that it is possible to move through time. His guests are skeptical at first, but then show his guests a model of his time
machine. He informs his guests that we will travel through time, and then his guest leave after the evening has concluded. He invites his dinner guests over again the next week, and then he tells them all about his time traveling adventure.
The Time Traveller goes to the year 802,701 AD. While in the future he meets a group of humans that call themselves the Eloi. The Eloi live in small communities within the ruins of fallen cities. The Eloi are a very carefree people. The Time Traveller notices that the Eloi lack curiosity and discipline. He believes that they are a communist society. He has difficulty communicating with the Eloi because they are not interested in learning about him, and he thinks that in their society being intellectual is not an advantageous trait.
When the Time Traveller is done speaking to the Eloi, he is unable to find his time machine. The Time Traveller soon realizes that the machine was taken by a group of ape-like creatures known as the Morlocks. The Time Traveller speculates that humans evolved into two different species, the Elois and the Morlocks. The Morlocks live underground, and they seem to be the ones who make life enjoyable for the Eloi.
While the Time Traveller is finding his time machine, he saves an Eloi girl named Weena from drowning. He takes Weena with him on a trip to the remains of an old museum. At the museum, he finds a supply of matches and weapons, which he feels he will have to use in order to retrieve his machine. On the way to Weena’s home, they are both overcome by Morlocks, but they are able to escape because of a forest fire set by the Time Traveller. Although the Time Traveller escapes, Weena is lost in the fire. The Morlocks use the Time Machine to lure the Time Travller back to them, but the Morlocks did not seem to understand that we would just use it to escape. The Time Traveller escapes and ends up going 30 million years into the future. While in very distant future he sees the earth slowly erode, and becomes very overwhelmed and returns home to tell his story.
In this book, the topic of human evolutions is heavily presented. The main character travels into the distant future and encounters two distinct groups of humans. Not only did the humans change physically, but also the way they behaved was different. When H.G Wells wrote this book, he was heavily influenced by major scientists of his time. One person in particular was Charles Darwin.
Darwin’s main idea was evolution by natural selection. During an expedition to the Galapagos, Darwin observed finches and noticed that certain finches were better adapted to certain environments. This observation led Darwin to his theory of Natural Selection. His theory stated that if a certain adaptation were successful, then that trait would get passed on. Darwin also believed that animals descended from common ancestors. Darwin’s ideas on evolution influenced HG Wells’s writing. For example in the book, the main character stated that humans evolved into two species, the Morlocks and the Eloi. This idea is similar to Darwin’s theory of animals having common ancestors.
Today evolution is seen as changes in allele frequencies in population overtime (Britannica. However during Wells’s time, not much was known about DNA and the factors that affected it that could lead to evolution. When thinking in terms of human evolution, there are several levels in which one must look at. H.G Wells not only described the physical differences seen in the Morlocks and the Eloi, but also the behavioral differences. Wells’s describes the Eloi as people who were carefree and people who lacked curiosity. I think that Wells’s was illustrating that not only will humans evolve physically, but also at a societal level. It is uncertain what the future holds, but Wells’s does an excellent job at getting one’s imagination going.
In this book, HG Wells does an excellent job at looking into the future. As mentioned before, he was heavily influenced by the science of his time. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution influenced how Wells’s approached evolution in his books. I would recommend this book for any science fiction lover because the book makes one think about what the future holds.
“Introduction.” The Island of Doctor Moreau Edited by Mason Harris. Ed. Mason Harris. Toronto: Broadview Editions, 2009. Page 19-22.
Wells,H.G., Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866). 2 Vols. London: Gollancz and Cresset Press, 1934
“evolution.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 18 Jun. 2014.