Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Original Text
The Time Machine has two major Themes. The first, that capitalism is dangerous, and harmful to the workers, is evident from the connection, made outright by the Time Traveller, between the Morlocks and late 19th century laborers and the Eloi and the London aristocracy. Though the aristocrats may be in control at the turn of the 20th century, as long as their power rests on the mistreatment of other human beings, and on the distancing of the worker from the product of their labor, that power is uncertain. The upset in the established hierarchy did not come not from a revolutionary overthrow, but through gradual changes made over an expanse of time, but the effect is the same, for in the waning days of humanity, there is no seclusion from the predatory nature of the former workers.
This provides the basis for the second, more important theme, which questions the assumption that most people held at the end of the 19th century (and continue to hold today) that humankind will continue to progress, and that improvements in society and culture are a given thing. Though Wells’s story on some levels might be considered optimistic, in his realistic portrayal of what might be possible to do with science, it is extremely pessimistic, offering a warning of the unfettered and unthinking trust in “progress,” scientific and otherwise.
On a more cheerful note, a minor theme can be found in what Wells seems to be saying about human emotion: one of the only things that will survive throughout time is sympathy and emotion, as seen in the relationship between Weena and The Time Traveller. The Time Traveller becomes attached to Weena because she seems the most human of the Eloi for the reason that she clearly feels affection for the Time Traveller. In this way, she demonstrates a kind of sympathy for him and the position in which he finds himself.
The mood is serious, but not entirely dark or pessimistic, and is often lightened by jokes the Time Traveller makes for his own benefit as well as his listeners’. The story is enhanced with realistic detail, balancing the fantastic content of the story, with the detail of the way it is related.