H. G. Wells was fascinated by the theory of evolution and how far that mankind could control its own destiny. This is evident in other novels of Wells such as “War of the Worlds” and “The Shape of Things to Come”. However nowhere is his fear for mankind’s future more evident than in his novel “The Time Machine”. His love of humanity in crisis and scientific theories have produced this great book, that has a surprising reflection of what could be seen as the views and pessimistic jitters of the author. Personally I believe there are two characters in the novel that present Wells’ views.
I believe that the main character of the book named “The Time Traveller” was meant to represent the author’s fear and disillusion for the future of humanity. The other character being “Filby” who is the “Time Traveller’s” best friend seems to be an eternal optimist whom is hoping that one day mankind will see the error of its ways and make an about turn from the fate that Wells portrays to be that of man in the future. To study in depth the “Time Machine’s” portrayal of humanity we must further look into the different societies at different periods of the novel and find out the “Time Machine’s ” views on these social groups.
Being strictly chronological, the first society that we must look at in order to make a comparison was the society of law and order to which he belonged, Victorian England. A poor time and place to live in, the common folk scarcely made enough money to survive and disease soon spread among the cities and eventually caused London to smell repulsively. These times were of flourish to those in the upper classes who wallowed in more money than one ordinary human could ever aspire to accumulate.
These people thought of themselves only as as the upper class this was to the extent that those lower would not be allowed to address the upper class citizens. Unjustly those poorer than themselves were not treated as a society in poverty but they were treated as lazy ungrateful mob that were treated as slaves. At this point in history child labour had not yet been abolished and children were still treated like slaves carrying out all the tasks that the upper class would have never even known how to complete.
Most citizens of the lower classes were poorly spoken and were uneducated, these people new of only their trade that could earn them a small amount of money to eat and sleep. In comparison to this grueling shameful era, Wells, in the early part of the book is using Filby as the narrator and the only part of this society that is touched upon by the novel is the upper class. I think this shows an ignorance to the people below him almost to the extent where one could say that Wells was ashamed or embarrassed to live in the era that he did and he portrayed this through the early chapters of The Time Machine.
We can tell this by looking at the complexity of scientific understanding that Filby and The Time Traveller posses. In and around that period in history only the very upper class would be this finely schooled. Further evidence to support this claim of ignorance towards the lower class is that only the high ranking important local figures are present at the introduction and demonstration of the time machine. Such figures include a Provincial Mayor, a psychologist, a medical man and an Editor. These high class figures all well spoken and showed good understanding of the Time Traveller’s theories.
I think that all this shows that Wells who is portraying his views through the novel is not happy with the scum and diseased era in which he resides but will do anything to get out into the future. At this point social status played a key part in society and it seems that Wells wants to experience a world with out this binding moral code. After the The Time Traveller takes his first dive into the future he encounters a new society in the very distant future. Which for no apparent reason he names the Eloi.
This new society functions in very different way to what The Time Traveller is used to. “Apparently, the house or even the idea of a household, had vanished. “,”‘Communism! ‘” I said to myself. ” These two quotes show The Time Traveller’s great shock to seeing the degrading of society, if you could call it society. He reaches the conclusion that the human species had eventually evolved so far that they no longer had any need to fend for themselves or work at all. All work equal in this new communist society and meat was not anywhere on the menu.
The Eloi strictly feasted on the fruits that they each harvest when they feel like it from the large fruit garden which is now earth. All reminiscence of architecture and civilization has completed vanished without trace from mankind. The Time Traveller seems to be disappointed at the simple relaxed society he has entered in the far future. As it seems to him that the all of mankind’s history and long evolutionary process has all been for nothing. He found nothing that would please him in this place. I think that at this point Wells becomes pessimistic about what mankind’s future could hold.
When The Time Traveller sees that man has evolved into simple communist beings his hopes of meeting an advanced modern world are destroyed and he will begin to explore the new world to find something that will give him a reinvestment of hope to keep him motivated. Later on in the story The Time Traveller discovers a second underground race. He draws the conclusion that the Eloi or upper world may have evolved from the once favored aristocracy or upper class and the underworld society or “The Morlocks” by name given by The Time Traveller evolved from the labouring mechanical servants of that very aristocracy.
The Morlocks hunted and fed on the Eloi. They hunted in packs and banded together showing the strong social bond similar quest for survival and social gain that the lower classes of Victorian England showed. Discovering the new race did not make The Time Traveller anymore optimistic, in fact this may of even made him even more hopeless than before. Now he has seen the future result of two races evolving to form a simple body of simple beings doing nothing more than providing for their needs and pleasure. There was no technological advance or social advanced.
Almost like the human race had reached a peak many years before The Time Traveller had stopped to examine things and then began to devolve into simple happy communist beings that were all equal. I think that The Time Traveller’s final view of humanity is not one of hope or optimism, “Once again I saw the dim shadows, that were evidence of decadent humanity”. This is his final point of view, he has seen the end. He has seen what is referred to in the novel as the sunset of mankind. He has nothing to look forward to. He knows that man is one day or another to become extinct.
So do we all, but we still have the greatest hope that our final hour won’t be so soon. The Time Traveller gives up all hope of ever being able to change the world enough to avoid the terrible decadence of our race. I think it is hard to tell whether Wells’ is a pessimist or not through the actions and words of his characters. I think The Time Traveller’s personality is inconsistent. He started out as an optimist with every hope of going forward or back in time and saving or changing humanity for the better. But as The Time Traveller sees more and more of the dim and distant future he becomes a pessimist with nothing in his aspirations.
Whereas Filby, has a positive outlook from the onset of the story and in the epilogue gives his opinion and motivational summary to spur on the human race to do well and stay dominant. I think it would be very difficult to decide whether Wells’ is representing himself through The Time Traveller or through Filby. But I have come to the conclusion that Wells is the optimist with a positive outlook on life. I think this although without the epilogue the book would have an inappropriate cinematic ending it still is the only place, I believe, where Wells has put his true hopes for humanity into the story.
I think Wells has used the Time Traveller to convey some of his other views and theories into World. In conclusion I think that Wells would not have described today’s modern world as a dystopia. This is because all that humanity has worked for over the years is in effect and benefiting a lot of people. There is still social order and a justice system. Wells’ final view is one of distant but prosperous hope, and I think so long as the book leads the reader to believe this it will draw their ideal world into a brighter future.
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