H.G. Wells classic gives us a vision of the future, eight-hundred millennia from now. Humanity has been split into two dominant species: the Eloi or the Overlanders, who frolic in a non-competitive day-time environment; and the subterranean, carnivorous Morlocks, sensitive to light and somewhat more intelligent than their diurnal adversaries.
The author intentionally leaves out an extraordinary length of time between the present and the future to give the reader an abstract idea of the consequences of class division. He describes the differences between the two races as the Haves and the Have-nots, drawing parallels between 19th Century (and modern) class division by giving us glimpses of subterranean technology without ever letting on what they accomplish. The Eloi (the Haves who live above ground) are always dressed in wonderful garments, yet we are led to believe that intelligence has been bred-out amongst the Eloi, to a point where producing linens for this purpose is unachievable without the Morlocks. The aristocratic Eloi survive on plants and vegetation, while the Producers, the Morlocks, feed on the Eloi or even other Morlocks. (Note: The featured image is the 60’s movie poster, the only copyright-free image I could find. The image itself does the book no justice, the Morlocks look nothing like they appear in the book, and presumably all the humans displayed are the Eloi. I haven’t seen the film, and don’t intend to).
It could otherwise be argued that The Time Machine is also a metaphor for Veganism, though, given the author’s background and intention, this view would clearly be retrospective. A more fitting metaphor would be of the contradictions between nature and morality, as the evil Morlocks appear to have the upper-hand in a survival sense, particularly as their crab-like descendants roam the Earth in an even more distant future. There is also the irony that fire: the most basic human discovery, saves The Time Traveller, much like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Both stories portray fire as a key seperator between Man and Beast.
There is a passage which sums up The Time Traveller’s conclusion of the divide, comparing it to the classes of The Capitalist and The Worker. Personally, I think that the book would have been fine without the transparency of this particular passage, though H.G. Wells clearly wanted his message to be obvious.
H.G Wells made his message clear: Empathise with the lower classes or create monsters from them. However, the author does not set any framework for how to avoid this bleak future, unlike Animal Farm, which took then contemporary ideas to discuss current and future divides. The Time Machine’s abstractractness is probably what keeps it from being deemed communist propaganda.
Another wonderful passage from The Time Machine reads:
“I have a memory of horrible fatigue, as the long night of despair wore away; of looking in this impossible place and that; of groping among moonlit ruins and touching strange creatures in the black shadows; at last, of lying on the ground near the sphinx, and weeping with absolute wretchedness, even anger at the folly of leaving the machine having leaked away with my strength.”
I hold this paragraph with high regard; a perfect example of semi-colon use throughout classic literature; a great starting point for the amateur writer who’s keen to learn.
There was one noticeable error, in that the Morlocks were described as having ‘lidless eyes’, yet they repeatedly blink at The Time Traveller. It made me wonder just how much opium publishers were smoking in 1895.
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