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H G Wells, The Time Machine

1895

H G Wells, The Time Machine

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  • Intro

    The science-fiction novels of H G Wells are undoubtedly more than fantasies located in imagined future worlds; The Invisible Man (1897) is an examination of the isolation of the pioneer-scientist in an uncomprehending world, The War of the Worlds (1898) a vision of apocalypse, and The First Men in the Moon (1901) an exploration of the idea of imperialism.

     

    Wells’ first book in the genre, The Time Machine, is a critique of utopian ideas, set in the year 802701, in which the human race is divided into two groups, the subterranean workers, the Morlocks, and the decadent Eloi. It sets a pattern for science-fiction to critique extreme developments of class, seen later in works from Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) to Orwell’s 1984 (1949), though arguably Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) had established the idea with the yahoos and the houyhnhnms.

     

    In the time-traveller’s encounters with future people Wells speculates that technology would produce a race of docile and uninvolved humans who would no longer need to struggle with their environment. But such a race is dependent on a worker-race, the Morlocks, who both enable and prey on the Eloi. Deleted drafts suggested that Wells looked into history for the source of the division of humanity into two forms. While clearly within the genre of science-fiction, the book is clearly also an exploration of the nature of humanity, its duality and its relationship with and expectations from technology.

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