H. G. Wells, The Time Machine


What scene and setting begin the book? (sense of smoky imprecision, evening milieu) Why do you think this particular set of characters was chosen? (all male, many of scientific or journalistic credentials)


Why do you think the narrator is chosen to be different from the Time Traveler? Does this weaken or strengthen the plausibility of the tale?


How is the story influenced by being presented as an oral tale? (tale tales are often oral; also gives sense of first-person witness)


What explanation is given for the possibility of time travel? Does this make sense? How would it have related to recent discoveries in late 19th century science?


How is the flight “verified”? (Traveler is allegedly an eminent scientist; multiple observers examine the machine and witness his reappearance)


Can you think of other works whose scientifically inclined protagonists explore the dangerous unknown? (e. g., Dr. Faustus, Frankenstein)


How is suspense maintained throughout the narrative? (narrator repeatedly states that his opinions will change, so we wait to hear what these will be)


When he first arrives in 802,701, what does the the Time Traveler believe to be features of the new world? To what does he ascribe features of the inhabitants? (devolution—have no needed to use their intelligence)


Is this consonant with the Darwinian theory of the time?


What are some of the physical features of the new world? (the white sphinx, wells, towers, communal palaces, gardens, a multitude of exotic plants)


What are traits of the Eloi? (sociable, live in communal dwellings, are short in stature, speak a simple language and apparently have no system of writing, playful, free of disease, peaceable, avoid conflict and war, lack gender differentiation, don't seem to form families or spend much time raising children, in his view are idle and careless of others' welfare, as when Weena seems about to drown)


Of the Morlocks? (ghost-like and slimy, writhing, white and nebulous of appearance, large eyes, carnivore)


What changes in climate characterize the new society? (37)


What has happened to the population? (has lessened, not grown)


How can we recognize the 19th century qualities of the Time Traveler? Are these desirable distinctions? (yes, he’s intelligent and courageous, resolute, inventive, 47, also quick to form judgments and assume inferior qualities in those unlike himself)


What items are rare and valued in this new context? (matches, camphor, weapons such as a crowbar)


What is the effect of the fact that we learn everything from the Time Traveler's point of view, rather than that of any of the Eloi or Morlocks?


Are the people of this new society differentiated by name or character? (only Weena is named)


What is the narrative effect of the Time Traveler’s relationship with Weena? What do you make of her name? The manner of her death? Is there something symbolic in the fact that he is unable to bring her back with him to the late-Victorian world?


How would you describe the book’s language? What types of settings are especially well described?


What seems to have been the purpose of the Green Palace? From what time periods are the objects preserved? What does the Time Traveler decide must have been the high point of their civilization? (they don't seem to have advanced much beyond the Victorian period, which is well-represented in their museum of civilization)


What is important about the Great Fire? (60, destroys all) Why doesn't Weena understand that fire is dangerous? What myth is suggested by a culture which lacks a knowledge of fire? (legend of Prometheus giving fire to ancient men)


What does the narrator conclude about the relationship between the Morlocks and the Eloi? Does this make sense in Darwinian terms?


In the time since the publication of Wells’ book, have we moved in the direction of his prophecies?


What does the Time Traveler find in the yet farther future? What is the relationship between his travel and a horror dream?


How do his friends react to the Time Traveler's account of his experiences? Who is most inclined to take them seriously?


What do you make of the fact that after his return even the Time Traveler wonders about the validity of his experiences? That he compares them to a dream?


What is added to the narrative by the addition of the Time Traveler’s final disappearance?


In the final paragraph, how does the narrator distance his views from those of the Time Traveler? Do we accept his more sanguine view? With what final sense of the future are we left?


What is the significance of the last image and authorial comment? Does this seem consistent with the narrative we have just read?


How does this example of early science fiction differ from William Morris's News from Nowhere? Are there any common features?


What are traits of Well's style? (alternates between descriptions of practical details and beautiful accounts of natural and astronomical scenes) Are his descriptions of natural settings and landscapes effective?