The novel The Time Machine is centred on the events which take place when a man of science-whose name is not given- journeys forward into the future, to the year 802, 701. While there, the Time Traveller is able to make connection with his own time, and makes assumptions about how thing have changed, to more extreme forms of life. The comparisons that the Time Traveller makes are to do with the social systems he encounters. The political and social structures of the Time Traveller’s own time, were strictly based upon classes. The upper classes ran everything, and had total control over the working classes.
The times themselves were driven by capitalist ideology, with little thought given by the upper classes for which they abused to gain higher profits and lower cost. The poor lived in some of the most abject squalor imaginable. Indeed, the reports of the time struggled to express these conditions. The Victorians viewed people by their class; this meant that it was very hard to enter a social class above ones own, as very few people higher up the chain would want anything to do with those below themselves, feeling that to associate with them would lower their own social standing.
However, new ideology was emerging at this time, thanks to revolutionary new ideas, from people such as Karl Marx-who found the Marxism school of thinking. This was based upon the idea that the lower and working classes were being exploited and alienated by their social superiors. While the Time Traveller is in the future, he uses his knowledge of the 1900s to evaluate what he sees of the people that he meets. This knowledge is based on the theory of evolution, an idea which was presented not long before the books publication, by Charles Darwin.
Darwin said that all living thing on the planet were in a state of on-going evolution, and that everything had originally come from the sea. This is shown in the book, by the way in which the Eloi have evolved for a simpler world, without many of the hardships present in the authors own time. They are reverting to a state which Darwin claimed to be a form from which humans, at some point in the past, came from. While Wells was a socialist, he did not conform to the standards set by many of the Marxists that were around at the time.
Marxism is based around the idea that change will only come when combined with violence and revolution. Wells wrote the machine as a cautionary tale, to show that change for all would only come through education, along with and understand and acceptance of social responsibility Before the Time Traveller begins his voyage into the future, he has a vision of what he is about to encounter. He expects to find the future a place where al aspects of social interaction are perfect.
He believes that man kind will have advanced not only in “ knowledge, art, everything” but also technologically as well- he thinks that the machines he will encounter will far surpass anything produced during hiss own time. The idea of human advancement would have seemed very logical to Wells. At the time the book was being written, there had been several books published, showing that humans had evolved from apes. Wells, and therefore the Time Traveller, assumes that this will take place. When the Time Traveller arrives in the future, he sees, what appears- initially, to be the regression of humanity and other species.
The “ creatures” of the future with which the Time Traveller starts to inner act appear to be reverting to a simpler, less evolved state of being. Instead of hands, they more tentacle like appendages. Their language has become a “ liquid tongue” the idea that humanity has started to vegetate comes form the fact that there is nothing for them to do. There has been so many improvements in agriculture, medicine, there was no need to work to get food-even weeds have been removed, along with disease. In this way of life, “ the weak are as well equipped as the strong”.
All people that the Time Traveller encounter in the future are equal, and therefore, he assumes them to be communist. It is then that he realises that the people he meets are perfectly evolved for the environment in which they live. Therefore the people, being communist, are seen as an improvement, as it is what humanity has evolved into. This could be seen as an improvement by the Time Traveller as he has a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before he left, the Time Traveller assumed that there by improvements in life, and therefore he sees them.
As a socialist, Wells would want to see a communist future. However, because the people are “ soon tired”, the buildings have become dilapidated, with windows broken in many places. Due to there adoptions to what one might call the comfy life; they have lost the ability to do physical labour. In the Time Travellers second vision of the future, he sees that his idea of a world based upon communist ideas was wrong, there was, in fact, capitalism in an extreme form. The Eloi-whom he first met are the monsters of the world he sees, the equivalent of the upper and ruling classes of his own time.
The Morlocks, who live underground, are the workers. He sees this as they live underground, and in the Time Traveller’s own time, the poor are being forced into a more subterranean existence. While in the Time Travellers own time, the classes were separated only by class boundaries, in the year 802, 701, the separate classes have become separate species. The Morlocks are adapted to their underground world; the same as the Eloi are to theirs. The Morlocks have large eyes, which reflect light- much like many nocturnal creatures of the Time Travellers own time.
Their skin is bleached and whitened, doe to their lack of exposure to sunlight. The Time Traveller explains why the Morlocks live underground by drawing comparisons to his own time. In the Time Traveller’s time, the “ unsightly” parts of society are being put underground- “ the metropolitan railway in London” and ” and new electric railway, there are subways, there are underground work rooms and restaurants” he concludes that as the work rooms moved underground, so did the housing for the workers, and therefore, the workers themselves follow suit.
With their entire was of living now underground, there was no need for them to return to the surface, and so they lived their days below ground. While the Eloi have adapted and changed, they still retain their basic human image. That is, they still have a body that physically looks like what the Time Traveller would call human. The Morlocks have changed far more, and have adapted to their own existence. The Eloi have become so weak that they cannot save themselves from things such as drowning, due to the lack of ability to swim.
It is possible that the Morlocks are to perfect either, and have over adapted, as they cannot comfortably venture out into the light. In the Time Traveller’s third vision, he sees that his idea of extreme capitalism on the part of the Eloi is not true. While it may be true that at some time in the past the Eloi controlled the Morlocks, in the period of time that the Time Traveller visits this is not the case. His idea that the world of 802, 701 was a world based on one species being dominant was true.
The only fault with his idea was that it was in fact the Morlocks that were in charge, and not as he believed the Eloi. While the Time Traveller explored the subterranean environment in which the Morlocks live, he sees a large slab of meat, which, while looking familiar, he cannot place. It is only after he has exited the tunnels that he comes to the conclusion that the slab of meat was the remainder of one of the Eloi. He then applies this knowledge to his idea of extreme capitalism and oppression.
He comes up with the idea that, at some point in the distant past, the seat of power has changed, and since this moment, the Morlocks have been the ones in control. While the Eloi enjoy a world with no labour, the Morlocks had “ run short” of their food source- probably rats and similar vermin. After this, they turned to being what some may call cannibalistic, and ate what once was their fellow man, however, at this point in the future, both Morlocks and Eloi are so different in both appearance and characteristic that the act is no strictly cannibalism, although is certainly very close to being so.
After this, the Morlocks started to care for the Eloi, not just because it was what they have always done, but because it was the only was that they could have food to eat. The Eloi, while still appearing to be humanoid, had become the food source which the Morlocks ate. The message that Wells gives is clear: change must come, should the upper classes (however distant in the future) want to be more that” mere fatted cattle”, for the classes below them to feed upon.
Wells does not give a set way for this change to be implemented, nor a time scale for it (by using such a distant time, he makes in t easier for the change to be more gradual, ergo, more acceptable to the upper classes). He uses the Time Travellers to show that the ruling and upper classes are looking at the world through rose tinted glasses, unable to see that change is necessary for their fellow man. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the Time Traveller if he had travelled to a closer time, where the Eloi are the rulers still, oppressing the Morlocks, and to see how he then viewed them.