The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine Passivity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall. . . (4.28)
According to the Time Traveller, the Eloi have become dumb and lazy because they can survive that way. Natural selection no longer weeds out the passive; unlike in the past, you can survive perfectly well without being smart or active.
Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness. (4.30)
Passivity is actually a better trait to have than its opposite according to this theory. While we often think of laziness as a bad thing, it seems there's an argument to be made here that laziness isn't good or bad; rather it either fits the environment or it doesn't. Maybe the 1890s couch potatoes have a fine thing going on there – they certainly seem to fit their environment comfortably.
At last, hot and tired, I sat down to watch the place. But I was too restless to watch long; I am too Occidental for a long vigil. (5.13)
In Wells's time, the stereotype of the East (the Orient) was that it was slower paced; people could just sit and meditate for hours. By contrast, the people of the West (the Occident) were thought to be more active and restless. So whereas the Time Traveller thinks of the Eloi as lazy, he sees himself as belonging to a group of people who aren't. (We would point out that his Western friends in the 1890s seem like pretty passive guys.)