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

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Night fell while the Time Traveller was musing and so he heads back toward the building in which the feast had been served. In doing so, he discovers that the time machine is not where he left it, and suddenly he is faced with the idea that he could be trapped in the future world. He runs to the lawn with the sphinx and finds that the time machine had in fact been taken away. Overtaken by fear and anger, the Time Traveller runs to the building and into the sleeping chamber, accosting the people asleep there. Unable to communicate his distress and realizing his attempt to do so in his present emotional state, the Time Traveller leaves the building, wild and bewildered, wanders about outside and then falls asleep in the grass.

In the morning, refreshed and better composed, the Time Traveller returns to the lawn where he had arrived to investigate his disappearance. He discovers that the bronze base of the large sphinx statue is hollow, and that the machine seems to have been dragged in there. He attempts to open the base, and tries to enlist the help of various people passing by, but his suggestion elicits disgust and horror, so he quickly gives up trying. The Time Traveller decides to be patient and not disturb his hosts, and instead begins to focus on learning the language more fully.

He continues his investigation of the changes to the landscape, and the culture of the Eloi. He discovers numerous circular wells, reaching deep into the ground, which have been made for some purpose other than gathering water, and he notes, as well, the lack of cemeteries or any other type of housing for the dead. With his new observations, he begins to believe that his initial conclusions were far from the truth, yet he cannot fathom what the truth might be. He does not understand how the world maintains itself, when he could not see any type of labor being performed, and there were mysteries, such as who took his time machine and why, yet to be solved.

The same day of these explorations, the Time Traveller rescues one of the Eloi from drowning in a river. The girl he saves, Weena, becomes a great friend, accompanying him wherever he goes, and through her he is able to learn more about the Eloi, and the world they live in. He quickly learns is that they fear the night and dark places, and consequently gather together in the large house to sleep each night.

The Time Traveller soon has his first true glimpse of the other race that inhabits the future. Seeking shelter from a hot day in a ruin, he comes across two white, ape-like creatures hiding in the darkness. He follows it for a closer look, and then discovers that it has retreated down one of the circular wells that he had noticed before. He then realizes that humankind has split into two different species, the fragile creatures of the Upper World, and the apelike creatures of the lower. After failing to elicit more information from two Upper World creatures, which remain alarmed that he is near one of the wells, he muses some more about how humans have gotten themselves to that point in the future.

The Time Traveller draws a number of conclusions about the Morlocks, satisfying himself first with the obvious ones: that the creatures are subterranean--based on their unpigmented fur, their enlarged eyes, and their clumsiness when running through daylight; that the ground below must be extensively tunneled, with ventilation shafts for air and wells as means of transport to the surface. He then meditates on how the split occurred, and realizes that it was a simple outcome of the difference between classes in his own time. In London the workers were being forced increasingly underground, so it was a natural conclusion that they had stayed down there, continuing to labor, deeper and deeper under the surface, coming to the surface less and less, while the rich remained on the surface, receiving the spoils of the laborers’ work. The Time Traveller feels satisfied with his conclusion, but remains confused as to why the Undergrounders wanted his time machine. He asks Weena, who refuses to answer his questions.


In this chapter, much is learned about both the Eloi and the Morlocks, and this is the first chapter in which both names are discovered by the Time Traveller. The Time Traveller has his first encounter with the Morlocks, and he realizes the extent of the error of his previous theories. Wells’s theories of the evils of capitalism are not very veiled, as the Time Traveller discusses the inevitable conclusion of the gulf between the Capitalists and the Laborers. The rich continue to seclude themselves more and more in the most beautiful parts of the country, while the lower classes slave away under the surface in the subways and underground workrooms, so that the upper classes may continue to enjoy their seclusion. The result is a barbarian class that the weak, ineffective upper class is totally dependent upon.

The Time Traveller thus combines the theories of Marx and Darwin, demonstrating the way that the steady mistreatment of workers and their separation from the fruits of their labor would result, over a large period of time, in altering not only the culture and society, but also the very essence of humanity.

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