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The Time Machine

The Time Machine

by H.G. Wells

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary References

  • Utopias (5.18), which were a pretty popular trend in the late 19th century. Two important Utopian works that Wells is probably thinking about are (American) Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), where a Bostonian wakes up in AD 2000 and finds that every class issue has been resolved; and (British) William Morris's News from Nowhere (1890), where the future is better because work has become fun. At 5.40, the Time Traveller complains that he doesn't have a "cicerone," which is a fancy word for guide, because in these Utopian works, the stranger is usually led around by a native who explains everything very clearly.
  • Grant Allen, a novelist and nonfiction writer (5.28)
  • Thomas Carlyle (7.15), an English author (most famous for his anti-revolutionary views on the French Revolution)

Historical References

  • Battle of Hastings, 1066 (1.39)
  • Little Rosebery, either the politician Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, or one of Primrose's horses (2.13)
  • Phoenician decorations (4.8)
  • Carolingian kings (7.2)

Pop Culture References

  • Sphinx (3.9) – and check "Symbolism" for more on that
  • Dresden china (4.3)
  • Lemur, which is both a type of primate and a type of Roman ghost (5.34)
  • The Metropolitan Railway (5.38), which opened in 1853; as for "electric railways," the first of those in London opened in 1890.
  • Kodak camera (6.10)
  • Football (11.12). (Remember European "football" is US "soccer.")
  • Pall Mall Gazette (12.5)

Scientific References

  • Simon Newcomb – professor of mathematics and President of the American Mathematical Society (1.15)
  • Peptone – a form of protein (2.16)
  • Ichthyosaurus (4.12)
  • The younger Darwin (5.29) is Sir George Howard Darwin, who was an astronomer (and Charles Darwin's son)
  • Megatherium, Brontosaurus (8.3)
  • South Kensington (8.4) is the London borough where several big museums are located, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum
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