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The Time Machine

H.G. Wells

Chapters 8-10

Chapters 6 and 7

Chapters 11 and 12, and Epilogue

Summary

Weena and the Time Traveller enter the Palace of Green Porcelain, and find that just as it appears, it is made out of green porcelain. They also find that it is a ruined museum. Among a chemistry exhibit, the Time Traveller salvages some camphor, an inflammable substance often used in torches. He is thrilled to find some preserved matches--he had run out--and he marvels at the completely decayed remains of books that he finds in one of the halls. Exploring a giant hall of machinery, he notices that Weena is scared. Looking into the dark end of the hall, he hears the sound of Morlocks. He breaks a lever off one of the machines, and flees. Exiting the museum, he intends to rush back to the area of the sphinx statue, but he is exhausted because he has not slept in two days. As they near the woods again, they hear Morlocks beginning to stir behind them. Night has fallen. Using the camphor and some dry brush he had collected, the Time Traveller starts a large fire to guard their retreat into the woods. It spreads quickly. He and Weena proceed at a rapid pace, but eventually find themselves surrounded by Morlocks. The Time Traveller hurriedly starts a small fire, pulling down dry timber to feed the flames. Incredibly tired, he nods off to sleep, feeling safe by the fire.

He awakes to feel the Morlocks grasping him. He struggles, grabbing hold of the lever he took from the museum. He swings wildly, killing a few Morlocks. Suddenly, the rest flee, and he sees that the first fire has become a giant forest fire. He can't find Weena anywhere, and he runs after the Morlocks, hoping that they will lead him to safety. He finally comes to a clearing with a large hill, filled with confused, blinded Morlocks. They are helpless. When morning comes, he gets his bearings atop the hill and heads back in the direction of the white sphinx statue. He plans to pry open the pedestal with his lever.

When he arrives, to his surprise, the pedestal is open, and he sees his time machine inside. He smiles, guessing at the Morlocks' plan of action. He walks into the pedestal, and the panels slide shut behind him, just as he had suspected. He confidently begins to strike a match, but realizes he has nothing to strike it against. The Morlocks pounce, and he desperately struggles onto the saddle of the machine, barely screwing in the forward lever. He pushes it forward, and escapes into the future.

Commentary

With this chapter Wells finishes his tale of the year AD 802,701. Having sketched out the structure of that society and thus implicitly made his political points, he moves on to conclude the adventure story. Fire, which was originally a source of wonder to the Eloi, now becomes a dangerous weapon. It is a weapon that would not be powerful in contemporary times, but which seems like terrible magic in the future. It is a common feature of time travel stories to allow the hero to escape from troubles with some kind of weapon or skill he brings from his own time. It is exciting; it communicates a certain loyalty to the time of the reader.

Another common element of the time travel story, or of any story where the hero travels to a fantastic place, is that some kind of violence or trouble forces him to leave quickly. Otherwise, the character might forever stay in the fantastic place, and never return to tell about it. Also, because the hero has to leave quickly, he does not have time to fully explore the world or to bring back much evidence of his travels, lending the story a sense of mystery and ambiguous credibility.

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