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

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THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The themes found in The Time Machine reflect Wellsís continued displeasure with the policies created by the British government of his time. His later novels would engage with the problems of his society more fully, but his consciousness of the ill effects of capitalism and the blind trust placed in unchecked industrialization clearly shape the themes of this, his very first novel. Even though the novel emphasizes the wonderful things possible through the advances of science and the popularity of the book was most likely the result of Wellsís imagination rather than his interpretation of London society, the novel still focuses on themes warning the reader of trusting the status quo of the present social hierarchy without thinking of the consequences of continuing with the same social irresponsibility. Wellsís first novels are considered to be overwhelmingly optimistic in the possibilities of science, but there is a note of pessimism to how he imagines the future might be.

But, the pessimism is restricted to the effects of society, not science itself, which is pure, and separate from the Time Travellerís experience in the future. Science is the means for him getting there, but not the cause of the future society, aside from its contribution to Englandís increased industrialization. There is optimism in his view of science and how technology might be used and developed.

Likewise, Wellsís views of the constancy of human feeling offer a positive view of the future. Weenaís unrestricted affection for the Time Traveller, across a language barrier and without any shared history, demonstrates the way in which human emotion might continue even when all other similarities to life as we know it have been gone for centuries.


STUDY QUESTIONS


1. The Time Machine has a particular narrative structure, in which a narrator creates a frame for the Time Travellerís story. What effect does this structure have on the content of the story? Does it affect the way the readers consider the themes of the novel?

2. Describe the Time Travellerís role as a scientist exploring the future. Does he have any obligations or codes of conduct he should follow? Do you think he handles his situation well?

3. How would you describe the narratorís relationship to the Time Traveller? Does this affect the way you interpret the story, or the novelís themes?


4. Describe what the Time Traveller finds in the year 30,000,000. Does this fit with Wellsís beliefs as a Darwinist?

5. Explain the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks, and the main characteristics of each. What did you think of each species? Did you sympathize with either?

6. The Eloi are the descendents of the wealthy, upper-classes in Wellsís time, and thus, in many ways, the cause of the mistreatment of the laborers. Yet, in the future, the Time Traveller feels the most connection to Weena and the other Eloi. Does this affect the way you interpret Wellsís critique of British class structure? Why or why not?

7. Wellsís novels, including The Time Machine, are considered to be among the very first examples of science fiction writing. How does this novel compare with science fiction novels of today? What can you find that is directly a result of Wellsís writing? What is different?

8. Wellsís description of the time machine, time traveling, and the future are all very vivid, and somewhat cinematic. How does this novel compare to science fiction films that you have seen? Does the medium affect the way you think about the message underneath?

9. In the epilogue, the narrator offers his interpretation of the Time Travellerís journey, sharing his philosophy of how to live life. What are his suggestions and thoughts? Do you agree with him?

10. Do you see any themes similar to other works by Wells? What about to his later novels? How does Wells change as a writer?

11. Where do you think the Time Traveller fits in the social hierarchy? Do you think this affects his observations of the future?


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