… They are excessively unpleasant.’
Everybody knows the basics to the story of The Time Machine. A man travels to the future, having built a time machine in his laboratory, and returns to the late nineteenth century to tell his story to his disbelieving educated friends. The first contact I had with The Time Machine was the 1960s version. I’ve never even seen the 2002 version – I think at the time I was prejudiced by the idea of Beyonce starring in it.
Last night I finished reading H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Although it’s such a small book, it took me a long time to finish for the small fact of life, university, work… everything else just got in the way of being able to spend more than ten minutes reading.
It amazes me that they managed to make a full feature-length out of the book – it’s about 90 pages long. I remember in the 1960s films version there was so much. The Time Traveller stops in a number of places on his journey to the future, he watches the window of a dress-maker and the changing seasons. He witnesses an atomic future, a volcano eruption, and eventually lands in the distant future and experiences what humanity has become. And then saves the day, because it was a 1960s film, and needed a happy ending.
H. G. Wells’ version is vastly different. There are similarities, of course, but for the most part they are completely different. The Time Traveller tells his story to a group of educated men, of how he stumbled across the year 802,701 AD and discovered the peaceful Eloi living in what the Time Traveller called the Upperworld, and the terrible fate they beheld. His time machine is captured in a statue by the Morlocks, who inhabit the Underworld, who control the machinery… but not necessarily knowledge.
The Eloi are essentially the cattle for the Morlocks. They are also a form of (d)evolved humans, as are the Morlocks. Humanity split somewhere along the way as the humanity became to complacent, and could no longer develop. The age and work of the intelligent man has long been forgotten and what is left is this race of child-like people, scared of the dark and that it when the Morlocks come out to prey.
People talk about Wells’ future, that the human race could well divulge into two separate races – one of intelligentsia and one of stupidity. I think however, when people speak of that, they are comparing themselves to the Upperworld, the world of the child-like, playful creatures that are the cattle rather than comparing themselves to the more sinister idea that the intelligent side of humanity could well be the darker, cannibalistic society*. Knowledge is power, right?
If that were the case (and I have my memory of biology right) it would take millions of years for any adaptation to take place, rather than the (mere) thousands described in the book.
Towards the end of the book, the Time Traveller goes further forwards in time… he witnesses the beginning of the end of the Earth. He sees more evolution take place, as Well’s implies that the human race turns into sea like creature, almost like a Return to the Sea. Then, in true British fashion goes home and tells his story to a respectable audience that is never going to believe, except possibly, the narrator of the story, who witnessed the final disappearance of the Time Traveller and did not believe that he would ever return to the late nineteenth century.
Perhaps Wells’ overall message to his readers is don’t get complacent in society. Don’t achieve everything, don’t answer every single scientific question or query because it’ll lead to the splitting of society into something completely unrecognisable.
*Although Wells describes the society of the future cannibalistic, the human race has evolved into two separate and distinctively separate entities. So despite having the same biological origins some thousands of years ago, would this really make the Morlocks cannibals? I think that they are described as such because of their human origins, not their current forms. Just some food for thought… if you’ll pardon the pun.
[Edit: corrected typo’s relating to Well’s/Wells’]