The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
The Time Machine Theme of Technology and Modernization
Wells didn't invent the idea of time travel. Just to take one example, it's central to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. But Wells did (more or less) invent the idea of a machine for time travel (which is one bit of technology we'd give up our DVR for). Interestingly, although technology is really important in this novel, the Time Traveller doesn't really describe the technology he sees in the future. This isn't a catalog of cool new gadgets. What he describes most is the effect this technology has had on people. Wells wants to show us not technology for its own sake, but how humans adapt to using that technology and how we're changed by it. (This includes when society loses technologies, like fire or writing, neither of which the Eloi have retained.)
Questions About Technology and Modernization
- Is technology in The Time Machine always useful? If not, is there some way to tell the useful technology from the harmful? (Or to keep useful technology from having bad consequences?)
- The Time Traveller argues that civilized men are changed by their access to technology. Is this shown to be true or false in the novel? For instance, how does the Time Traveller act when he doesn't have technology around?
- Besides the Time Machine, what other technology can be found in the novel? How does it affect the way people live and think?
- What can you tell from looking at some ordinary bit of technology in the novel, like shoes? (It may seem silly, but try it: How do the Time Traveller's shoes compare to the Eloi's sandals and the Morlocks' shoelessness?)
Chew on This
In The Time Machine, people try to control natural forces with technology, but those forces can never be fully controlled.
While the Time Traveller seems unprepared for his trip into the future, he has the most important modern technology of all: the scientific method.