I recently read H. G Wells’ “The Time Machine” a science fiction novel. Herbert George Wells (1866-1943) was a famous English writer also known as the father of science fiction alongside contemporaries novelists like Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the ideas presented in the story was “way ahead of it’s time”. This futuristic 32,000 word novella, was first printed in 1895 in the Pall Mall Gazette as a serial publication. The main theme of this story is the mind-boggling, hitherto impossible, concept of time travel. H.G Wells himself had touched upon this topic several years earlier in a short story, “The Chronic Argonauts”. However, the idea of using a tangible machine for time travel was a brand new introduction.
The story unfolds through the accounts of an un-introduced narrator. enough information is given to conclude that he is one of the guests at a weekly dinner party of a wealthy scientist, residing in Richmond, Surrey. The narrator witnesses the sudden arrival of the host at the dining room door. Far from being dressed for the occasion, the host, also referred as the Time Traveler, is in a disheveled haggard state, bearing upon his countenance the most unmistakable expression of suffering and pain. He addresses his guests and apologizes for being late and not ready. When he excuses himself to tidy up, the narrator continues to recount the previous week’s after-dinner conversations.
A week ago, on the same night, the scientist, was logically arguing with his dinner guests that “time” was just a fourth dimension, similar to the other three dimensions: height , width and depth. If the spatial dimensions allow us to travel through it in positive and negative directions, same should be possible with time. The only difference about the fourth dimension, he emphasized, was that our consciousness always moved with time in the forward direction.
As the discussion proceeded, he admitted that he was secretly working on a machine that allowed a person to travel through time in the past and future. He even demonstrated the workings of a miniature model of that machine. He made the model “dissolve” into a different time, in front of all his skeptic guests. Then to prove his point, he led them to his laboratory where he showed his big “Time Machine”. The contraption needed some finishing touches but closely resembled the disappearing model.
Eventually, in the “present” time, the Time Traveller returned to the dining room, tidy but still tired. He was able to postone answering the questions of his curious puzzled guests on the condition that they would hear his entire story after his has had some ” peptone in his stomach”. After dinner, the Time Traveler becomes the narrator of an extraordinary story. The guests gather in the sitting room. The host relates his experiences over the past eight days.
The whole story was written in the first person. I found this style very interesting, as the perspective and character of the narrators changed but the powerful pronoun “I” remained unchanged throughout the length of the story. It made us relate at a personal level to even the weirdest and the unbelievable descriptions. This in my view made the events sound plausible.
The scientist was in his laboratory the following morning when the finishing touches were imparted to the incredible contraption. With intense pent up emotions, “like someone about to commit suicide”, he pulled the lever to start the machine. In the next instant, he pulled the lever to stop. For a moment he led himself to believe that nothing changed as he was still in his laboratory. But the unmistakable proof was there on the wall — the hands of the clock had moved five hours.
It was now time to try for real. He pulled the lever for starting and saw how the house keeper who had come into the room move out of the room at a tremendous speed. Then day changed to night. As he kept pulling on the lever, the dial indicating the years moved quickly and he could see the phases of moon change in a flash before his eyes. He could see the season change from green summers to white winters and soon everything was just an obscure haze. At some point he decided to pull the stop lever and his surroundings changed at a slower pace. Finally, he found himself in the middle of a green field with a huge stone structure and big building few hundred yards away. The dial of the time machine indicated that he had arrived in the year 802, 701 AD.
In that time, he meets with future descendants of human beings who had morphed into two kinds : the defenseless child-like Elois , probably from the rich elite class and the subterranean brutal Morlocks, from the working class. The tables had turned and the Morlocks were now the predators. It takes the Time Traveller a week to find all this out. Unfortunately, he lost his time machine which was taken away and hidden by the Morlocks. In the meantime he also forms a deep friendship with a female Eloi named Weena.
Under unfamiliar and unfriendly situations he is at the brink of giving up. However, his analytical mind and deep trust sees him through. Applying all his intellect and gathering his courage, he is successful in retrieving his Time Machine and escaping the carnivorous Morlocks but cannot not save Weena in the process. In a hurry to escape, he travels further into future, 30 million years from present time. He witnesses the menacing giant creatures on the dying Earth. He is fortunate to finally make it back to his laboratory from there and share his story with his dinner guests.
Though most of his guests dismissed the story, the original narrator’s interests were piqued. He returned the next day to find the Time Traveler preparing for a second time travel. The story ends on a pondering note. Unfortunately, even after three years of waiting from that very day, the narrator had no idea what finally happened to his exceptional friend, the Time Traveler!