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Free Study Guide for The Time Machine by H. G. Wells-Book Summary

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Note

H. G. Wells is British and uses two "L's" in the spelling of Traveller. The American spelling is with one "L", but since the traveller is a key part of the novel, we have left that spelling alone and kept it in the original format. While many of the other words have been "Americanized", the spelling of "The Time Traveller and "travelling" with 2 "L's"have been retained in their original British format.


LITERARY ELEMENTS


SETTING

There is but one physical setting for the entire story, but three temporal settings are used over the course of the novel. The book begins in late 19 th century London, specifically, in the Time Travellerís home in Richmond, a borough on the Thames River, on the outskirts of London. The dining room, smoking room, and laboratory are the only rooms seen and are not fully described, as they are only the setting for the narrative frame which surrounds the real story, told by the Time Traveller himself. The men gather in the smoking room, seating themselves around the Time Traveller, who sits near the fireplace and begins to tell his tale in the dim light of the fireís glow.

The most important setting--the time and place in which most of the story takes place--is still the site of the Time Travellerís house and the area surrounding it, but hundreds of thousands of years into the future. In the year 802701, the buildings that once formed London are completely gone, and all that can be found are the buildings used by the aboveground dwellers, a very large statue of a Sphinx-like creature, the ruins of several other structures and scattered circular wells. Everything else has gone back to nature; trees and flowers fill the Thames Valley.

The third temporal setting is even farther into the distant future, thirty million years hence, and the landscape is even more dramatically different. Now the Thames Valley is a desolate beach, facing an aging ocean with no waves, only an occasional swell. Large white butterflies and huge crablike creatures populate the world, and even further in the future, the crabs are gone and only lichen and an amorphous black creature remain.


CHARACTER LIST


Major Characters


The Time Traveller
A well-read and intelligent man of science. He is versed in the theories of his day, and very clearly a Darwinist, like Wells himself, and his thoughts echo much of Wellsís own theories about the Britain of his time. He is a man of observation, and muses quite a bit about his surroundings, in an attempt to use logical thinking to draw conclusions about the future and its inhabitants. The Time Traveller has a sense of humor about almost everything he encounters, and accepts his friendsí skepticism. Witty and somewhat of a joker, this aspect of his personality is part of the reason his friends so quickly dismiss his story and demonstration as a joke.



The Narrator, Hillyer
One of the three men present at both dinners. The narrator is the only character who gives any credence to the Time Travellerís claims; he seriously considers the possibility of time travel.

Eloi
A peaceful but weak and lethargic people who populate the surface of the earth in the year 802701. Small in stature, and delicate featured, the Eloi play all day, feast on fruit in great halls, and sleep in a large communal chambers in order to protect themselves from the dark and the possibility of Morlock attack. Easily tired and childlike, they are not interested intellectual pursuits, or in the Time Traveller beyond his function as a diversion.

Morlocks
An aggressive, predatory, ape-like ďpeopleĒ who live beneath the earthís surface in the year 802701. The Morlocks are the descendants of the working class of the late 19 th century, and continue to labor, maintaining and running huge machines deep in the earth. The have adapted physically to life beneath the surface, with large, eyes very sensitive to light, and light, unpigmented skin and fur. Carnivores, they feast on the Eloi, who they maintain as a source of meat.

Weena
An Eloi who the Time Traveller saves from drowning. She becomes a special friend of the Time Traveller, following him around and occasionally serves as a source of information. She eventually is attacked by the Morlocks and dies in the forest fire.


Minor Characters


The Medical Man
One of the three men present at both dinners. He considers the Time Travellerís theories and stories, treats the subject seriously at first, but challenges him and remains extremely skeptical. At the demonstration, he maintains that the Time Traveller played a trick on them all.

The Psychologist
One of the three men present at both gatherings, who thinks time traveling would be useful, especially for historians, but does not believe in the possibility of it. After the second meeting and hearing the Time Travellerís story, he seems unaffected by it, and does not offer an opinion of it.

The Editor
He is present at the second meeting only. He is the editor of a well-known (but unnamed) daily paper. Outspoken, he remains skeptical of the Time Travellerís story, making jokes about the Time Travellerís appearance at dinner, as well as after he tells his story.

The Journalist
He is present at the second dinner only. He unsuccessfully tries to amuse the dinner party with anecdotes, and after the Time Travellerís story, seems uninterested in whether the story is true or not.

Provincial Mayor
He is present at the first meeting only. He is not very intelligent, nor a man of science.

Filby
He is present at the first meeting only. He is described as ďan argumentative person with red hair,Ē and believes Time Travellerís theories go against reason.

A very young man
He is present at the first meeting only. He participates in the discussion about time traveling and the fourth dimension.

Man with a beard
He is present at the second meeting only. He is quiet and shy, and unknown to the narrator.


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