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SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
The novel begins with the Time Traveller explaining his theories about the fourth dimension to a group of friends and associates gathered at his home for a weekly dinner. Most of the men present follow his explanations, agree in theory to most of his observations, but quickly become skeptical when the Time Traveller moves from speaking of the nature of time to the possibility of moving within it. Their disbelief only increases when the Time Traveller offers to supply evidence to support his theories, bringing a small model into the smoking room. Made of metal, ivory and quartz, the machine, as the Time Traveller explains, is a replica of a full sized machine that he has built in his laboratory, and on which he plans to explore time.
With his guests watching, he demonstrates the use of the machine, pushing a lever, which causes the model to disappear, into the future, the Time Traveller claims. Most of the men are initially disturbed by the presentation, not quite sure what to think, but most come to believe that the Time Traveller has been playing a trick on them, and easily dismiss his assertion that he plans to explore time within the next week.
The following Thursday, another group of men gather at the Time Travellerís house, and find that the host is not at home, but has left a note asking them to start without him. They do so, entertaining themselves with guesses as to why the narrator is not present, when their host enters, disheveled, dirty, and limping.
The Time Traveller returns after washing and changing clothes, to tell the story of his morning, in which he traveled eight days. After dinner, the men gather around him to hear the uninterrupted story. The Time Traveller tells them that that very morning his machine was finally finished, and he soon departed into the future.
He explains that at first he could only pay attention to the sensation of time traveling, which makes him feel queasy. Once he regains his full senses, he begins to be able to observe more fully the speed at which he is traveling, as well as watch the world as time passes. He watches the swiftly changing scenery and then decides to stop to see what the future holds. His stop is sudden, throwing him from the machine into the grass. He finds he is in the same location as his laboratory, but in the year 802701.
He first encounters the Eloi, who approach him soon after his arrival, leading him into a large structure in which they eat and sleep. The Time Traveller partakes of a fruit feast with the Eloi, and explores the area around the structure, observing and making judgments about the nature of the future, which quickly are shown to be incorrect. When he is in the field next, he realizes that his machine has been moved; to where, he cannot figure out. In the next few days, the Time Traveller continues to explore the area, and in the process befriends one particular Eloi named Weena, who he saves from drowning. The Time Traveller, who normally sleeps outside, eventually meets the Morlocks, the other species who inhabit the planet in 802701.
Understanding that it is the Morlocks who moved his machine, most likely into the base of a large stature near to where he first ďlanded,Ē he decides to descend one of the circular wells that connect the world of the Eloi with that of the Morlocks. He escapes being attacked by the Morlocks, getting to the surface before the Morlocks can get a handle on him. Next, he and Weena explore a great green palace, which turns out to be an old, deserted museum. There he finds necessary tools--a metal piece that he uses as a mace, a box of matches and a jar of camphor. In the long journey back to the main building where Weena lives, they pass through a dark forest at night. Starting a fire to protect them from the Morlocks, they continue on, but soon the Time Traveller decides to stop and rest, inadvertently falling asleep for much longer than he had wanted. When he wakes up, he is being attacked by the Morlocks, and Weena is missing. Defending himself as best he can, he soon realizes that the entire forest is burning, due to the fire that he previously started. Distraught by the loss of Weena, he manages to escape the raging fire, eventually making it back to the field in which he first arrived in the future.
After resting, he finds that the doors to the base of the statue are open, and he enters, finding his Time Machine inside and intact. Knowing that it is trap, he is unsurprised when the doors suddenly close and Morlocks move in on him, but the escape is not as smooth as he planned. He does get away, meaning to go into the past, but zooming further into the future, because he was unaware of which direction he pulled the lever. Since he is traveling that direction, the Time Traveller decides to see what the earth is like in the year 30 million. He finds the earth and sun dying, and the only life left are crablike creatures and lichen. Disturbed by the haunting imagery and difficulty breathing, he returns to his home to join his guests at dinner.
After finishing his story, he asks for the menís responses. The editor responds first, totally dismissing the story as a fabrication. The lack of faith of the men, and the fantastic nature of his own story makes the Time Traveller question whether or not he really did experience what he told his guests. He leads the men into his laboratory to see if the machine exists. It is exactly where the Time Traveller left it, showing a bit of wear and tear, and the Time Travellerís worries are put to rest, as he becomes confident again in the veracity of his experience. His assuredness only affects the narrator, who gives the Time Traveller the benefit of the doubt, admitting the potential of time travel.
The men depart, but the next day, the narrator returns to the Time Travellerís house, asking him if his story was true. The Time Traveller in return offers further evidence if the narrator is willing to wait half an hour. The narrator agrees; the Time Traveller escapes into his laboratory. The narrator sees a glimpse of a figure, which disappears, and then continues to wait for three years, with no avail. He ends the story with his ponderings as to whether or not the Time Traveller ever will return.