The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine Passivity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I understood now what all the beauty of the Over-world people covered. Very pleasant was their day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And their end was the same. (10.1)
Passivity is often thought of as a negative emotion, and sometimes an animal one. (Cows are passive. Sheep are passive. Maybe chickens are passive?) The Time Traveller's comparison of the Eloi to animals reminds us that their passiveness makes them less than human. But aren't some of the dinner guests pretty passive too? What is Wells saying about the future of the elite?
At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. [...] The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. (11.2)
Passivity isn't just a personal or a cultural issue in the future; it's also a cosmic one. Here the earth has slowed down in its rotation and eventually stopped turning. Presumably, if he went far enough into the future, the Time Traveller would come to an utterly still, cold universe, where all the stars had died. So, passivity, at its extreme, seems related to death.
It was a round thing, the size of a football perhaps, [...] and it was hopping fitfully about. (11.12)
While the novel presents several examples of passivity, there are some hints that maybe there's more activity than the Time Traveller sees. For instance, on the apparently "desolate beach" at the end, the Time Traveller does notice that there's something still living and moving. This may be a lot less life than there was, but it's life nonetheless.