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

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The Time Traveller

The Time Traveller is a man of wit and intelligence, and thus a perfect candidate for interpreting the future for the readers. He is well versed in all the major theories of his day, from math and science to philosophy and economics. He is a member of the upper-class, as he has the money to fund his scientific pursuits, and host the weekly dinners that the narrator attends. Although he must be somewhat wealthy, he is socially conscious, as he dislikes an ostentatious show of wealth, evidenced by the fact that he does not have his servants wait on his guests at dinner. Likewise, he is cognizant of the mistreatment of workers within the city of London, and the dangers of working in squalid conditions.

It is through his eyes that we see the future world, and his interpretations guide ours. As he makes his observations, he automatically draws conclusions based on his evidence, but he remains open to altering his hypotheses as he gains more information, as a good scientist should. He also is quick to admit to being incorrect and drawing the wrong conclusion about the world of the future. This shows him to be a much more sympathetic character, and makes his final conclusions more solid, as he has considered all of his experiences carefully.

As an educated man, it is all the more significant that his notion of the future of humankind be upset, as his thoughts about the future are based on the best known, and most respected theories of his time. His realization disturbs him completely, as he is faced with a society far from what he expected. Likewise, it becomes clear, that even intelligent scientists do not handle situations in the best way possible, when making decisions in moment. His stereotypes are upset as he befriends Weena, for as his affection for her grows, his initial, strong revulsion for the species is lessened.

In the end, the Time Traveller returns from his journey with far more knowledge about himself and his society, and new ideas about the path his country is following. Though his friends do not believe his story, his telling it allows him to share his resultant observations of the London of his time. His story may answer the question of what will happen to England in thousands of years, but his final disappearance maintains reinstates the mystery of the future, as the reader remains unclear as to where the Time Traveller went for his next trip, and why he never returned.

The Narrator, Hillyer

The narratorís character serves mostly to support the Time Travellerís claims. Not much is seen of the narrator, but his faith in the Time Travellerís theories and story, demonstrate his open-mindedness, as well as his faith in the miracles of science. Since he is the means for the reader to hear the Time Travellerís tale, it is easy to sympathize and agree with his position. As a result, his epilogue is almost a direct address of the reader, as he speaks directly to how he might use in his daily life the information he gains from the Time Travellerís story.

The narrator is of a new generation of young minds, deciding what they believe, and what they want to do with those beliefs. As the character who receives the final word, his words gain an emphasis. Since he ends on a fairly upbeat note, the reader is left with an overall optimism of lifeís possibilities, tempered by a warning to live in consideration of the potential future.


The Time Machine
follows the pattern of many of Wellsís novels, with a narrator beginning the story, creating a frame, for the other, more important story. In The Time Machine, the narrator is at the Time Travellerís house, and the scientific ground is being laid for the rest of the story. The narrator, Hillyer, is named, but this is not used much as it is unimportant who the narrator is. His most important function is to suspend his disbelief of such a fantastic concept as time travel, and provide a measure of realism to balance the unreal nature of the rest of the story.

On the night of the second dinner, the novel shifts into the Time Travellerís point of view, as he begins the story of his eight-day journey. This continues uninterrupted until the seventh chapter, in which the Time Traveller offers further evidence for his tale, in a handful of flowers that had been placed into his pocket by Weena. This break allows for a pause in the rising action, building suspense somewhat, but more importantly, reminds the readers that the story they are reading is being told ďin personĒ by the person who experienced it, looking back on his adventures, rather than being constructed by an author spinning a tale just for the enjoyment of his readers.

After the Time Traveller ends his story, the narrator resumes his role as interpreter for the reader. As the narrator sympathizes with the Time Traveller, and believes that it might be possible, in light of the evidence--the flowers, the wear and tear of the machine--the Time Travellerís observations are given a weight that might not have occurred otherwise. The readers of the novel, whether in Wellsís time or ours, most likely will not take his novel for fact, or for possibility even, but the structure of the novel adds to the realistic portrayal of the information, which gives validity not to the actuality of time travel, but the potentiality of class differences increasing. Time travel may not be possible, but understanding the nature of oneís society and the ills of a strict class hierarchy, are possible, and a focus of the novel, in its content as well as its structure. Reading the first hand account of the future society allows for a greater sympathy with Weena and the other Eloi as well as a greater understanding of the horrors of the future, which, for Wells, are directly related to the evils of the present. The Time Traveller, when he is the narrator, is given free reign for his musings, and then, in the Epilogue, the narrator is given the same, allowing for a bit of hope, and a warning, for the readers as they complete the novel.

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