The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
When the Time Traveller courageously stepped out of his machine for the first time, he found himself in the year 802,700—and everything had changed. In this unfamiliar, utopian age, creatures seemed to dwell together in perfect harmony. The Time Traveller thought he could study these marvelous beings (the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks, who not only symbolize the duality of human nature but also offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well), unearth their secrets and then return to his own time until he discovered that his invention, his only avenue of escape, had been stolen.
Review (SPOILERS AHEAD!):
Absolutely thought-provoking! In Wells’s satire of 19th-century Victorian England, he often returns to the existential theme of the meaning of life. He begins the story with scientific reasoning to support his Time Traveller’s conquest of the mysterious future, thus making Wells the first author to write about traveling through time with genuine thinking. While several modern physicists have agreed that time travel is entirely impossible due to the laws of the universe, I still found it intriguing to listen to Wells’s theories, which he created prior to the findings of modern technology.
This point brings me to another fascinating facet of the novel about how the modern perspective of the future comes from an author in the 1890’s. Many people often envision the future as a place of decay due to human greed and gluttony or perhaps the end of the world. In H. G. Wells’s future, the land is shrouded entirely in abundant greenery, and people live in a community of absolute harmony that is void of conflict. After the Time Traveller spends a few days exploring this society, he determines that humans have achieved peace through the abolishing of hostility and therefore have sort of “reset” Earth’s natural resources.
Most importantly, however, the Time Traveller discovers that humans have also “evolved” into two radically different groups. Above ground in the beautiful land covered with vegetation as was described live the Eloi, whose existence appears to be free from struggle. Below ground in dark tunnels live the Morlocks, who, once subservient and indentured to the Eloi, now prey on their former superiors. Wells often references the Darwinian model of evolution by natural selection through this outcome of human struggle. Interestingly, he depicts the Eloi, who represent Victorian England's privileged upper class, as feeble, defenseless, and childish despite their state of happiness. Contrastingly, the Morlocks, who have adapted to their underground homes and are now nocturnal and sensitive to light, are a satirical reflection of the lower classes, who are forced to operate machinery and provide luxuries for the upper class. In Wells’s reality, the lower class is stuck in a vicious cycle of poor living conditions, even worse job opportunities, and forever imprisonment in darkness at the decadent hands of the upper class. In the future, however, the Morlocks become accustomed to their position and begin to use it to their advantage as they continue to provide clothes and tools for the dependent and useless Eloi while preying on them for food, similar to how butchers pamper an animal for their inevitable slaughter.
In conclusion, H.G. Wells’s novel is not only a pioneering literary achievement as he is credited with being the progenitor of the “time travel” subgenre but also clearly depicts advanced social and political ideas that contrast the nineteenth-century perception of the future as a socialist utopia.
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