The Time Machine is debatably one of the earliest works of modern science-fiction, written by a pioneer of the genre, H.G. Wells. The novel focuses on the future of human civilisation, seen through the eyes of a Victorian English scientist who is referred to by the pseudonym ‘the Traveller’. It focuses on his early experimentation with what he denotes as the fourth dimension, time, and his subsequent expedition. He explores the Earth during the year 802,701 A.D. which is enabled by his creation of a device that can carry him through time a ‘Time Machine’.
The novel opens with a dinner party in which the Traveller discusses his recent developments in manipulating time. The contrast between a civil dinner party in which anecdotes and stories are shared to a great feat in the exploration of time, is surreal yet rooted in historical customs as the Victorian era was a period of exploration and adventurers often recounted their daring acts at dinner parties for entertainment. Wells generates several theories as to the state of the Earth and its inhabitants in the future – suggesting how humans will evolve and how the landscape of the Earth will alter.
Wells broke new ground with this first novel. Although the novel doesn’t contain strong language or sexual references, some of the themes of the novel are more adult in nature and so would suit a YA to adult audience.
What effect does the use of two narrators have on the story and why do you think Wells chose to employ both?
Compare and contrast the Eloi and Morlocks – why do you think Wells decided to devise two species?
What comparisons does the Traveller make between appearance and class with regards to the Morlocks and Eloi – was Wells suggesting that different classes are different species and would this be politically correct by today’s standards?
Wells first portrays the Earth in 802,701 A.D. as a paradisiacal world of bountiful vegetation. With modern environmental issues, how would current ideas contrast this theory?
Why do you think Wells decided to have the Traveller lose Weena? Do you think he didn’t want the story to have an uplifting ending?
Do you think the original Narrator believes the Traveller’s story and if so, what do you think differentiates him from the disbelieving guests at the dinner party? Do you think the flowers from Weena are sufficient evidence?
We are left to speculate the fate of the Traveller. Do you believe he settled in a future time period or is his absence indicative of his death? Why do you think that Wells chose to end the story in a speculative way? The-Time-Machine-Discussion-Questions.pdf
After successfully recovering the time machine, the Traveller travels 30 million years into the future where he sees the last of life on Earth as it freezes over and he watches the sun as it extinguishes. He then returns back to his own time, arriving three hours after he left. Another dinner party then begins and he recounts what occurred on his journey, producing two unusual white flowers that Weena gave him.
The novel ends with the original narrator. He informs us that he visited the Traveller after the dinner party where the he endeavoured to make another expedition. Sadly it has been three years since that day and the Traveller, as of yet, has not returned.
H.G. Wells coined the term ‘time machine’.