The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is considered a “classic” in today’s literary community. I also believe that this novel is a good book. It was an interesting story the first time I studied it, and I have found new ideas each time I have read it since. It is amazing that such a simple narrative could have so many complex ideas. Unfortunately, some do not take the same position that I do. They cast it off as a silly little novel that deserves no merit. Obviously I disagree with these critics. The Time Machine follows the criteria that I believe a good novel should have. A good novel should include an element of fantasy and should stimulate ideas in the audience that they never came to realize before. The aspect of good versus evil should also be incorporated into a novel, mainly to capture the reader’s attention. If readers find themselves rooting for a particular character or set of characters against another, they become involved in the novel. The characters should also be realistic so the audience can relate to them. The Time Machine follows these criteria with few exceptions.
Why should this novel be looked at now, 100 years after it was written? The Time Machine is a science fiction novel that has a much different view of the future than the view that is commonly held today. Modern society foresees the future as a technologically advanced society that would make our present society look primitive. Many movies today portray this view of the future. Wells’s view of the future is the antithesis to the one that is held today. The regression of society is rarely discussed as the future. The idea that human beings have reached their progressive and evolutionary peak could be an actuality. The Time Machine could be a possibility for the future despite the universal belief that humans still have a long way to progress. Neither technology nor peacefulness exists in the future that The Time Machine portrays.
Wells apparently has a grim outlook for what society will evolve to in the future. Wells introduces a meta-utopia or a dystopian future, which is, to say the least, a radically unique idea. A meta-utopian society is one that regresses instead of progresses. The protagonist of the book, the Time Traveller, builds a time machine and travels to the year 802,701. The landscape that he relates to the reader is a heap of granite, bound together by masses of aluminum, which were obviously old buildings that had been demolished. The Time Traveller encounters two races of regressed human beings the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are frail creatures, no taller than four feet. They pass their time frolicking in the fields. They do not seem to be interested in the continuous pursuit of intellectual advance or technological progress which would assuredly make their lives much easier. Unlike the Eloi, the Morlocks are subterranean creatures. They are carnivorous, cannot tolerate the daylight and they feed upon the helpless Eloi at night, whom they breed like cattle. These two races seem to be manifestations of human characteristics that would only be harmful. The Eloi represent those who live off of human emotion and activity, and are plagued by premature decrepitness and degeneration. They survive off the hard work of others. The Morlocks represent an industrialized society in a negative fashion. They are slovenly, unaesthetic and lack a sense of beauty needed to appreciate life. Wells’s believes that these traits would lead to a degeneration of society.
While these concepts are new and different to those who read Wells’s novel, the main idea that revolutionized science fiction was the introduction of the time machine. The time machine has become a staple in the science fiction genre. Many movies incorporate the idea of a vehicle that can move the characters years ahead or behind the present. The time machine is integral to the fantasy aspect of the story. A fantasy is fiction made up on highly imaginative or fanciful character and premise. Many would jump at the opportunity to travel to anyplace in time. Knowing what’s going to happen in the future and being able to change it is a fantastic idea for a story. The Eloi and Morlocks are the fanciful characters that would be prevalent in a fantasy. They are unrealistic, but on must remember that they are Wells’s portrayal of humans in the future. This could be disturbing to some, but this fantastic premise is Wells’s view. The Time Machine’s main appeal is, ‘What does the future hold for us?’ Wells attempts to answer this question in a way that has never been discussed. This is a topic that has many possibilities and interests a large part of the literary community.
The element of good versus evil is also present in Wells’s novel. This concept is basic human nature. This struggle is an ongoing theme that has lasted throughout time. In The Time Machine, the Eloi are considered good while the Morlocks are obviously bad. The Morlocks attempt to prey on the Eloi which keeps both sides in dissension. This conflict in good versus evil can be seen in almost any form of entertainment from books to movies to sports. In books and movies the good and bad sides must be established for the audience to choose a side with which to root for. Any sports fan can also relate to this idea. A fan’s favorite team is always the “good guys,” while the opponent is the “bad guy.” A Giants fan always takes pleasure in seeing the Cowboys lose. The defeat of the bad side is almost as good as victory for the good. The conflict of good versus evil is one that the audience identifies with. The audience readily takes the Eloi’s side and roots for them against the Morlocks. This conflicts keeps the audience interested to see which side outlasts the other.
Realistic characters the audience can relate to are sometimes necessary for a novel to interest an audience. The Time Machine obviously has its fair share of unrealistic characters (Morlocks and Eloi) that could detract from the realism of the novel. The one character that is realistic is the Time Traveller. He is an integral character the audience identifies with. He is not portrayed as a crazy scientist performing a maniacal experiment. Readers can see themselves as the Time Traveller. He is a normal guy that happens to travel through time. Without the realism of the Time Traveller Wells loses the audience.
The Time Machine still holds the same appeal today as it did 100 years ago. The essential elements for a successful novel are incorporated into Wells’s greatest work. He is able to keep the audience interested and has set the precedent for the science fiction genre. The use of a time machine has been used in movies and other novels throughout the years. The idea that one can travel through time is a concept that appeals to many and to our memories of the past. As children, we would pretend we were some sort of hero that would have great adventures. The Time Machine’s premise is similar to these childhood fantasies. The Time Machine remains popular because of its introduction of new ideas of the future, and the fantasy that it portrays brings the reader to a world quite different than our own.