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The Time Machine

H.G. Wells

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapter 5

Summary

The Time Traveller gets on his machine and pushes the forward lever just a little. He feels a dizzying sensation, and when he looks at the clock in his lab he sees that five hours have passed. He then presses the forward lever a bit more. Night and day fly by in increasingly rapid succession. Soon the lab disappears. He can see the hazy outline of buildings as well as the sun going in a continuous path across the sky that moves up and down with the seasons. A feeling of headlong motion turns into exhilaration. He begins to worry that when he stops the machine it will land where there is already some solid object, and he will be obliterated. He becomes very frightened and pulls the lever to a stop. He ends up flying headlong through the air.

The traveller finds himself in a hail storm. As it passes, he notices a giant statue of a white sphinx on a bronze pedestal. He begins to fear what man may have evolved into. Perhaps it is something very cruel or savage. He notices large buildings, and as he turns his time machine over on the right side, he notices that some figures in rich robes are observing him from the nearest building. One of the creatures approaches him. It is beautiful but very frail, reminding the Time Traveller of someone afflicted by tuberculosis .

More of the creatures surround him, speaking in a "sweet and liquid tongue." They seem free of fear, and he feels safe. He removes the control levers from his time machine so that no one else can use it. The creatures have large eyes, curly hair, and thin red lips. When he points up to the sun to try to explain where he has come from, one of the creatures makes the sound of thunder, thinking that he came from the hail storm. He wonders if they are fools and is flooded with disappointment. They begin to run about and shower him with strange flowers, and he laughs at how wrongly he had imagined the future.

The creatures take the traveller into one of their large buildings. It is covered with strange hieroglyphics. They give him a meal of strange fruit. He tries to learn a few words. They laugh at his attempts to speak their language, and soon grow weary of teaching him. They seem foolish and indolent. He walks out to explore the world of 802,701 AD. There are ruins. He notices that all of the creatures live together in huge buildings. He also notices that there are no outward signs of gender, and that there are no old people. He thinks he has arrived in a communist paradise, and that these creatures are the result of a world without hardship and fear. He thinks how in his own time, human intelligence is bent toward making life easier, and now, he thinks, he sees the outcome in the frail, naive creatures. It is hardship that necessitates vigor, and keeps man intelligent and strong. Without danger, he thinks, there is no need for the family, which results in the communist way of life he sees in these creatures. But, as he is telling his story, the Time Traveller says that this theory of his was very wrong.

Commentary

Wells uses his story to talk about contemporary social questions such as the advent of communism. The Time Traveller thinks that these frail creatures and their communal lifestyle is the result of a world free of trouble. While this seems desirable, it also seems strange. The Time Traveller finds the creatures beautiful, but he is disappointed by their laziness and lack of intelligence. It seems that Wells may be making a negative comment on communism. Later, his story will seem to illustrate the problems of capitalism as well.

It is also likely that Wells was criticizing the more general idea that human intelligence should always be used to make life easier. The late Victorian period was a time of great technical progress and social stability. Many people thought that progress was inevitable and good. Here, Wells suggests that progress can go in many different directions, and that if too much progress is made, if humans get too comfortable, they might get soft.

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Just a few details

by JFed-9, October 07, 2014

I think it's important to realize that when the time traveller leaves in the end, he has with him a bag and a camera, so the reader can infer that he will return with proof.

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