Frances Ann's Reviews > The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
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Aug 08, 12

Read in August, 2012

Okay, the Time Machine: overall, a pretty interesting book. It's a typical early science fiction story, much like Verne's book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which I reviewed last year, since both are from a scientists generally objective perspective of what happens around them. Again, there is not much character development but more scientific observation of the personalities of say the timid Eloi or the flesh-eating Morlocks, because, honestly, neither of these groups, argued the Time Traveller (as he is called), had any distinctive, individual personality. Both groups act as a whole with no creativity or innovation, and most importantly, no human feelings of caring or generosity. The only exception to this rule is the Time Traveller's friend, Weena, who is grateful and becomes attached to the Time Traveller.
Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about in this review was not only the story but the adaptation of the story over time, particularly in the case of the 1960 hollywood movie adaptation.
H.G. Wells published this book in 1895, a time of heavy industrialization and innovation, and an ever growing gap between the Upper class and the Lower. Wells took this gap and asked: what happens when this gap becomes too far apart? What happens when the Upper class lives in luxury too long and the Lower class which they relied upon became accustomed to working underground, without warmth and sunlight? This is the world that the Time Traveller encounters when he travels eighty thousand years into the future. The garden-dwelling Eloi, the remainder of Earth's aristocracy, who are as charming as fairies but as dumb as cattle, and the underground Morlocks, flesh-eating "human spiders" that tend ancient machines and hunt for Eloi on the surface at night. In an ironic turn of events the Lower class now literally "feeds" upon the Upper.
What puzzled me then, was the adaptation of the Time Machine made in 1960. I watched it once I'd gotten through most of the book, (and by the way, both end profoundly different). The interesting thing about the movie version is, (besides the fact that the Eloi speak twentieth century english,) is the explanation for the Eloi/Morlock formation. The Time Traveller and Weena discover recordings which give a new explanation: massive nuclear war, which began in the twentieth century and continued for the next three centuries, divided people into two groups, the ones who tried to survive in bomb shelters underground, and those who tried to survive on the surface. The movie continues with this nuclear-war commentary by making the Morlocks lure their prey underground using ancient air raid sirens, and the surviving Eloi not lured down blankly saying "All Clear" when the sirens ended. I find it extremely interesting how the entire political message of this story was changed. The movie script would not likely pass if the original message of "capitalism gone wrong" had been engrained into it, definitely not during the height of the Cold War. Still, changing the political message didn't seem to make as much sense, and the movie was just okay. I just thought it was interesting to see how a story can change context over a matter of time. I wonder how other people feel about it today?
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