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The Time Machine
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1001 Monthly Group Read > November {2011} Discussion -- THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells

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message 1: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Please tell us what you think!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Interesting and a book that has held up quite well for over one hundred years. Wells was able to establish a hidden dictum on the ills of Victorian society concealed within the pages of this book. It is a foretelling of what will happen as the haves overlord the have nots in a class system.

As an avowed socialist, who mixed in the society of scientists, it is not surprising that Wells portrayed a dire outlook for mankind. Society, as portrayed in this novel is headed for disaster, which when you think about it, many believe today. Prophetic in its outlook, the book leaves the reader with more questions than answers as the society of the Eloi and Morlocks exist in the world of the future.

The issue I have with the book is that I wonder why The Time Traveler continued to run away from society as he at the end embarks on another travel into the future. Why not warn mankind that this was their future? Another issue I had was with his abandonment of the young Meena as well as the semi erotic relationship he had with her. I was left unsure of what the intent was to have her in this book. Was she there as a diversion or did her presence provide any type of warning as the rest of the book intended to do?

There are too many questions not answered and yet this book does hold up quite well even though it is over 100 years old. It is a strange book, but one that deserves to be read if for nothing else that it cautions us that man is the greatest enemy to himself.


Diana | 7 comments I think the character of Weena (so she was named in my ebook) was supposed to show, that even in that decayed world, man was still capable of love.
I didn't really like the book. The way the Time Traveller told his story was not really my type, but the idea in itself is quite genius. That I have to admit :-)
Also, for the question asked, I think that the Time Traveller went further in his travels, because he was curious to experience and live more. The fact that a group of intellectuals were ignorant to his story is fact enough that he would've seemed like a crazy person if he started to warn others about the distant future.


Julie (readerjules) I agree with Diana about the purpose of Weena. I think there is a quote that hints at this, which I will try to find when I get home. Unlike Diana though, I loved this book.


Julie (readerjules) Julie wrote: "I agree with Diana about the purpose of Weena. I think there is a quote that hints at this, which I will try to find when I get home. "

At the end of the epilogue it says "And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers--shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man." What a great way to end the book.


Amanda In my opinion not Wells' strongest book, but as others have said it has held up well, despite its being dated. Branding the Morlocs as evil seemed pretty archaic and rather unscientific, but I enjoyed the somewhat overblown socialist moral parable of human decline and the separating of the species along economic lines, it was an interesting concept.

A little disappointing, but also curious that it only occurred to him to go forwards, whereas most modern time travel fiction in my experience (Kindred, The Doomsday Book, etc.) goes to the past. Curious that the genre has taken this shift in focus.


EShay Fagan (eshay11) | 23 comments I agree with Amanda, I'm a little disappointed with the book. I think it was incredibly a head of its time though, and look at all the books and movies Wells inspired. We have seen and experienced so much of what came after this work, the book that came first isn't quite as fresh and exciting.


Julie (readerjules) Which Well's books are your favorite Amanda? This was my first but I plan on reading more.


Trisha I really enjoyed this novel and thought that it must have been pretty "cutting edge" for it's time. Now, we are flooded with time-traveling, paranormal romances, but I think this one still holds its own against contemporary works.
Well's did an interesting job in creating the two different societies and in explaining how our "traveler" viewed them. Did anyone else notice that he was never given a name?


message 10: by Julie (last edited Nov 20, 2011 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie (readerjules) Trisha wrote: "Did anyone else notice that he was never given a name? ..."

No, actually I didn't.... Well at least I didn't THINK about it. It just was what it was.


EShay Fagan (eshay11) | 23 comments Julie wrote: "Which Well's books are your favorite Amanda? This was my first but I plan on reading more."

Julie, I listeded to the Orson Wells recording of the "War of the Worlds" that created the big scare back in 1938. I really enjoyed it. I liked it more than "Time Machine," but I think I liked it more because of the radio drama.


Diana | 7 comments Trisha wrote: "I really enjoyed this novel and thought that it must have been pretty "cutting edge" for it's time. Now, we are flooded with time-traveling, paranormal romances, but I think this one still holds i..."

Yes,I did... But actually, most of the characters weren't named.... :-)


Amanda My favourate Wells book is War of the Worlds. Don't confuse it with the Orson Wells radio recording though, which was a contemporary radio play based on the original victoriana novel. Wells' narrative is so strong and the story so unique and compelling... I was so terribly disappointed by the recent Tom Cruise adaptation which got as much wrong as it did right. It's time for a faithful adaptation I think.

As for the professor's name, yes I did notice his name was missing, but I failed to understand the significance of it. It was a bit of a risky move redly, as I felt it distanced me from the character.


Trisha I kept thinking that I had missed it somewhere along the way, but it seems like he is making a point by not naming him. Maybe we were supposed to feel distanced, to add some doubt as to wether or not "the traveler's" adventure was true or not. By knowing his name and feeling a connection to him, we may have trusted and believed what he was saying to be honest and true. We would not have that sense of skepticism that the other characters do. Just a shot in the dark.


Diana | 7 comments I think that his name is not important at all... It could be anyone. I don't think it would matter if he had a name... he could be called Richard, John, James, any name... in the end, he would still be the time traveller and that would be his defining role in the novel.
I think that the point the author tries to make, is to put specific names on every character, like the Doctor, the Editor and so on, for them to represent a group, not a certain person. Naming the time traveller, would have meant to make him the only scientist to have tried to create a Time Machine and I think he didn't want this.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think it also makes them somewhat unreliable narrators in a way.


message 17: by Dee (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dee (deinonychus) | 244 comments The novel is presented within the fiction of journalistic reporting, where one would expect the characters to be named unless some compelling reason prevented it. The final sentence is very telling, as it assumes the background to the time traveller is common knowledge, and the narrator is just filling in the blanks. So, in this light, the absence of a name is significant, in a way that it isn't for the other characters.


Lauli | 263 comments I really enjoyed this novel, and, like War of the Worlds, it read very contemporary despite being so dated. I loved the socialist parable (that's my left-wing heart in me!), but I think there are also many Darwinian undercurrents, as I think there are in War of the Worlds as wells. The concept of evolution (or involution), of a race developing into two separate races based on differentiated needs, shows the type of notions that were shaking the world as Wells was writing. As all transition novels (it was written almost at the turn of the century), I think there is an interesting mix of the old and the new.


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments I found the somewhat detached, analytical style an interesting way to describe what in some instances are horrible emotionally devastating situations, particularly with the Morlocks and when he's first travelling. The few names in the book seems to add to that. There are very "proper" Victorian descriptions of stressful situations. Stiff upper lip, wot.

That he didn't return was interesting. I like to think he found somewhere he really, really enjoyed. That would be a pleasant contrast to the theme that in the end, we're all dust.


message 20: by Melissa (last edited Nov 23, 2011 05:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa Loved it! I couldn't help but visualize the Eloi and Morlocks as Anime characters and Smeagol/Gollums, respectively. I wish this would have been a longer book or had sequels.

The ending left us either fearing that he "transported" into a solid object which he described as a possibility, or hopeful that he found a place to stay and lived happily ever after - perhaps with Weena prior to her disappearance.


Julie (readerjules) I chose to think that the fact he never came back meant he got stuck somewhere and couldn't get his machine to take him back for whatever reason, which almost did happen in the story we were told. Maybe because I don't necessarily like happily-ever-after endings. I do like it when authors leave part of the ending of a book to your imagination!


Melissa I like open endings as well. This one really sparked my imagination!


Haaze I was pondering why Wells essentially avoided the use of names to refer to people in the first chapter of the book? As you recall he is using names of professions such as "Medical Man", "The Psychologist", "The Provincial Mayor" etc. Why is he doing that? Is this some virtual society the Time Traveler is having a discourse with? A discourse with people representing disciplines? A discourse with representatives of his own "modern" society? What do you guys think?


Sandi | 227 comments I read this book earlier this year, it was my first by Wells, and I loved it! I've read a few sci-fi stories in my life, usually the futuristic kind. I found the mix of sci-fi and late 19th century quite refreshing and have since read three other novels by Wells, out of which I only liked War of the Worlds slightly better.


message 25: by JP (new) - rated it 5 stars

JP Capili (jpcapili) | 1 comments what kindle edition (modernized) of Time Machine would give me the best reading experience?


Haaze Another suggestions to the labels in the beginning was that the the author was trying to protect the identity of the individuals. That thought had not crossed my mind at all. What do you think?


message 27: by Haaze (last edited Nov 28, 2011 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Haaze Wells writes really well in the typical Victorian manner so I have been enjoying this quite a bit. I never realized how young he was when he wrote all his Sci-Fi novels. Late 20s to 30s!! When I read it last I never picked up the social criticism but rather dwelled on (enjoyed) the amazing adventure he was going through. Now I see that this is a powerful critique towards the society he is living in. Was he up in arms against the process of industrialization? Could anybody enlighten me on that one? By the way, has anybody here read his nonfiction works?


Amanda I haven't read Wells' nonfiction work, but from what I can gather he wrote about his political and social ideas which were typical of alternate thought at the time, but he also had a few quirky ideas of his own.

He was critical of the social inequalities of the time caused by Britain's class system and the associated economical hardships experienced by the lower classes. I don't believe he was anti-industrialisation per se, only anti how the upper classes exploited the system to maximise their incomes at the expense of the workers, who were kept poor. It was this divide between rich and poor/leisure and labour that creates Wells' hypothetical split in humanity's future.

Interestingly, Wells' was also an early advocate of free love, challenging the traditional relationship dynamics. I thought this came through in his description of Weena's people, throwing flowers about and innocently huddling together.


message 29: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments His "Outline of History" is one of my favourite books. I remember the style as less formal than in "The Time Machine". He has very interesting insights and perspectives as he covers a huge swath of history.

The Outline of History Being A Plain History of Life and Mankind by H.G. Wells


message 30: by Haaze (last edited Nov 29, 2011 09:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Haaze @Jim
Great suggestion! I have heard interesting things about that one. I guess it gives a kind of 1920s socialist view of the world?

@Amanda
Thanks for the perspective. I definitely feel the presence of his continuous comparisons as Wells is pondering the people of the future and how they came to be. I have never heard the "free love" hypothesis. Weena's people do seem peculiar in their feebleness.

Perhaps Wells is discussing the duality of mankind in the personification of these two types of beings, i.e. our dark and our good side...? Is it our dark side that is inventive and able pushing us forward, while the good side simply takes in existence passively and treats all life with respect but indifference. Is knowledge, inventiveness and initiative the path to our darker motives...?


Amanda Well actually I did find it bizarre that the descendants of Wells' working class were so monstrous and violent when his leisure class descendants, the very people Wells criticised, were peace-loving vegetarians. You would think he would have had them the other way around, as they often are in futuristic science fiction. Perhaps he was trying to show the dangers of inflicting a harsh life on an under class, a sort of horror story for the privileged in society?


message 32: by Melissa (last edited Nov 30, 2011 10:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa I thought Wells was hinting that tables can turn. A pampered upper class can evolve into being relatively weak and dependent upon the working class for its needs. Likewise, the working class can evolve into a driven, resourceful, society that will eventually dominate, if not obliterate the weaker sector.


Haaze Melissa wrote: "I thought Wells was hinting that tables can turn. A pampered upper class can evolve into being relatively weak and dependent upon the working class for its needs. Likewise, the working class can ..."

Hmm, his criticism towards the upper class/working class issues of the time seems obvious in retrospect. Still, I wonder if he simply split the ideals/ways of humanity into two separate entities to demonstrate where it could all lead. i.e. does work, technology etc lead to gloom and doom, while the "easy life" leads to a lack of curiosity and ability to survive independently? Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but the images of Well's future still linger in my mind. Great read!


Haaze Amanda wrote: "Perhaps he was trying to show the dangers of inflicting a harsh life on an under class, a sort of horror story for the privileged in society? "

Good point Amanda! I wonder how people reacted at the time. Was it highly criticized for these aspects?


Haaze Julie wrote: "At the end of the epilogue it says "And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers--shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle--to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man." What a great way to end the book. "

Well put Julie! I thought the flowers (and the fact that we had two) were a great touch. For some reason they were the bridge that connected the parts of the story in a graceful fashion. Besides, they are quite symbolic in so many other ways as well. Perhaps representing growth, the completion of a society/time, love and others. Do you think Wells had something specific in mind as he chose the two white flowers?


message 36: by Chel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chel | 376 comments I like this book alot and feel it is one of H.G. Well's best and a true classic of literature and science fiction. I especially like the concept of human devolution over time. Many books taking place in the future project great advancement and a utopian society and way of life. Not so in this, one of the first, dystopic novels in which an inferior, subterranean race preys upon an intellectually superior and passive surface dwelling race, both descendents of man. The time travel element itself was recounted in an exciting way and has become a staple of science fiction storytelling and a device to explore hypothetical scenarios. The view of the dissipation of mankind through devolvement of the species was, I think, an earth shaking idea in its day.


message 37: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments It all ending (at least on this planet) with cold, crabs and nothingness is quite something. Sure ain't Star Trek. I do love the idea of the story ending with the flowers, and the "gratitude and mutual tenderness" that Julie quotes above. Regardless of the destination, it's the warmth and kindness along the way that are what matters.


Amanda It is certainly a bleak outlook on the future of the earth. I found the ending a little mawkish, but I guess that was Wells' way of lightening the revelation that life was destined to die out eventually. Nothing is endless.

I disagree that the Morlocs were devolved forms though, or that Weena's kind were intellectually superior. The Morlocs evolved for best survival given their environment and as predators no doubt had the superior intellect over their prey. Many early forms of hominids would have behaved the same way to their inferior cousins and would not have recognised the professor as kin either. For the sake of the narrative, Weena's kin could relate to him.

Perhaps Wells was trying to come to terms with our distant past as much as our future?


message 39: by Bea (last edited Dec 04, 2011 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bea | 110 comments I agree that the Eloi were not intellectually superior. In fact, they seemed to have a hard time concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes. Even devoted Weena would get bored quite fast with her Eloi/English lessons. I think both races/species were devolved.

I never did figure out what point Wells was trying to make or why, if this is a socialist tract, the Time Traveler would be so disgusted with the Morlocks and enchanted with the Eloi.


message 40: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments With the Eloi, I thought he was trying to say that without challenges we become weaker. It's interesting that what he first saw as an idyllic world ends up being what's essentially the life of cattle.

With the Morlocks, they seem to be running the show. They're smart enough to bait him with his Time Machine. And I thought Wells mentioned that the machines under the earth were well taken care of. That being said, their hunting methods don't seem particularly advanced, and their focus seems to be eating (not unlike me sometimes, but I digress). Maybe they required and acquired aggression in their downtrodden working people days, and 800,000 years on, it's reduced to basics: keeping fed.


message 41: by Haaze (last edited Dec 04, 2011 04:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Haaze Jim wrote: "Maybe they required and acquired aggression in their downtrodden working people days, and 800,000 years on, it's reduced to basics: keeping fed. "

Err, like nowadays you mean.....? ; -)


message 42: by Jim (last edited Dec 04, 2011 04:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments Haaze wrote: "@Jim
Great suggestion! I have heard interesting things about that one. I guess it gives a kind of 1920s socialist view of the world? "



I don't remember the book as having a particularly socialist perspective. Much of it (it's fairly long) is engagingly presenting the facts (such as we knew them). He pulls back at a few points to dwell on patterns, but I recall those observations as more personal insights rather than tied to a particularly ideology.

One I recall (on a more specific issue) is along the lines that Napoleon's life and personal motivation would be absurdly funny if it weren't written in so much blood.


message 43: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 12 comments Haaze wrote: "Jim wrote: "Maybe they required and acquired aggression in their downtrodden working people days, and 800,000 years on, it's reduced to basics: keeping fed. "

Err, like nowadays you mean.....? ; -)"


Hmm...now that you mention it...


Amanda Jim wrote: "Haaze wrote: "Jim wrote: "Maybe they required and acquired aggression in their downtrodden working people days, and 800,000 years on, it's reduced to basics: keeping fed. "

Err, like nowadays you ..."


A law as old as time : D


Julie (readerjules) Jim wrote: "With the Eloi, I thought he was trying to say that without challenges we become weaker. It's interesting that what he first saw as an idyllic world ends up being what's essentially the life of cattle..."

Yep.


FrankH | 39 comments 'It is the business of the future to be dangerous', says philospher Alfred North Whithead. 'And it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties'. In the Time Machine, Well's imaginative rendering of the nature of time travel and of the experience of moving through accelerated time is engaging, literate and reflects an imagination eager to blend a fantastic construct with technical detail. But what about the merits of the premise itself -- Darwinian evolutionary selection combining with Marxist Class struggle to create, through grotesque symbiosis, two new, unique species? Does he make enough of a case for it? I don't know. It's not especially scientific at its core -- excepting the museum and the library, we are presented with little in the way of evidence or artifacts on how exactly this extraordinary transformation occurred. And certainly not dangerous in a manner that we have come to associate with science fiction, if not, 'scientific romances', the term used to classify Well's more visionary literary efforts. By dangerous, I'm not referring to mere physical threat-- Morlock chasing the Time Traveler -- but something more ominous, undefined, and linked uniquely to the futuristic world presented (ala dystopias Brave New World and 1984, from two contemporaries of Wells). Instead of a story founded upon the surging industrialism of Victorian England taken to a logical, intuitive conclusion ala Fritz Lang Metropolis, we have a kind of pastoral fable that reflects back on Wells' age only in the most abstract, cerebral manner. Perhaps what Wells had in mind was to shock the reader with the idea of how the extreme passage of time utterly transforms our physical world -- the giant crab on the beach as an example-- and our notion of humanity, which in the year 802,701 includes something very close to cannibalism. It's The Time Machine as a kind of thought-experiment in which the detailing of the future is merely incidental to the fact that this is one possible, gruesome outcome for a world we fatuously think is always progressing.


Andrea | 90 comments You all have some good insights on this one. It's helping me appreciate it a little more. I was hoping for more from it being that I find the idea of time travel to be a great place to start a story. I was disappointed with what we were given but I had to remind myself if I were reading this in the time it were written it most likely would have riveted me from the start. With all the other futuristic stories and movies out today, it leaves this one as not so imaginative. On to reading the next Wells novel.


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