The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine Theme of Awe and Amazement
The Time Machine is full of incredible things for us to be amazed at, such as: 1) the Time Traveller being late to his own dinner party (only slightly amazing); 2) the housekeeper zooming across the room or moving in reverse (more amazing); 3) the realization of how tiny human issues are compared to the scale of the universe (maybe more amazing than we need).
But there's a flip side: the more incredible something is, the less likely it is to be true. (The etymology of "incredible" actually means "not to be believed.") This is one of the central tensions in the book: the Time Traveller has been on this amazing journey, but he can't get anyone to believe him. In fact, his experience might be so amazing that his usual vocabulary breaks down when he attempts to describe it.
Questions About Awe and Amazement
- What happens when the characters feel awe? What actions do they take?
- Compare the dinner guests' reactions to the disappearance of the model Time Machine and the ragged appearance of the Time Traveller. Are the dinner guests awed in both cases? How do their reactions differ?
- Do the Eloi or the Morlocks experience awe? If so, what does that tell us about those characters? Is awe an integral part of being human?
Chew on This
The Time Machine suggests that awe and amazement are not useful emotions (as opposed to fear, which may be).
In The Time Machine, awe is the only feeling that is connected to science; therefore it's one of the more useful emotions.