Study Guide

The Time Machine Change

By H.G. Wells

Change

Chapter 1
The Time Traveller

"For instance, here is a portrait of a man at eight years old, another at fifteen, another at seventeen, another at twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections, as it were, Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned being, which is a fixed and unalterable thing." (1.17)

While we think of change relying on things being temporary, here the Time Traveller is trying to convince us of exactly the opposite: that a four-dimensional being is "a fixed and unalterable thing." In other words, a man doesn't really change as he gets older – he just becomes what he always was going to become. (So what we see when we look at him is only a temporary layer on top of his permanent self.)

Chapter 3

I noticed for the first time how warm the air was. (3.13)

This is such a small change that it's easy to miss, and might not seem so meaningful to us. So it's warm – that's not really newsworthy, is it? Well, it kind of is: the Time Traveller is dealing with a future where the basic facts of life – like the weather near London – have totally changed. And they will continue to change, so that by the last chapters, the air has become cold and rarified.

What if cruelty had grown into a common passion? What if in this interval the race had lost its manliness, and had developed into something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful? (3.10)

For the second-time reader, there's irony here, since we know the Time Traveller is going to find exactly the opposite – that people in the future have become overwhelmingly weak. But no matter how people change, here the Time Traveller starts the ball rolling on what will be a major issue with his adventure: time changes all things, and there's no guarantee that the descendants of humanity will still be recognizably human.

Chapter 4

The work of ameliorating the conditions of life – the true civilizing process that makes life more and more secure – had gone steadily on to a climax. One triumph of a united humanity over Nature had followed another. Things that are now mere dreams had become projects deliberately put in hand and carried forward. And the harvest was what I saw! (4.24)

Confronted with the Eloi, the Time Traveller starts thinking that some changes that seem positive might have negative repercussions. (And this is <em>before</em> he's even met the Morlocks.) In this vision of the world, there seems to be a "climax" after which we can only go downhill. In this way, Wells separates out the idea of progress (which people in the 19th century really believed in) from the idea of change. Not all change is progress, he is saying.

I saw mankind housed in splendid shelters, gloriously clothed, and as yet I had found them engaged in no toil. There were no signs of struggle, neither social nor economical struggle. The shop, the advertisement, traffic, all that commerce which constitutes the body of our world, was gone. (4.27)

With his interest in social class and economic problems, the Time Traveller notes their absence as a major change. But there are still similarities: people still need shelter and clothes (so it must not be <em>that</em> warm), and it still rains.

Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions. (4.29)

In <em>The Time Machine</em>, Time can't be turned off – change still goes on, even if you don't want it to. People made deliberate changes to the world and got very comfortable – and now they are evolving in response to the changes they made.

Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living, I felt that this close resemblance of the sexes was after all what one would expect [...]. We see some beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this future age it was complete. (4.20)

The Time Traveller not only sees similarities between his time and the future (like the flowers above); he also likes to make connections between the way things have turned out and the direction they were heading in his own time. Most of the changes the Time Traveller sees are extrapolations of trends Wells observed in his own day.

At first things were very confusing. Everything was so entirely different from the world I had known – even the flowers. (4.15)

Although the world is confusing and different, is it "entirely" different? In some cases, the differences are easier to spot because of the similarities. For instance, even though the Time Traveller sees that flowers have changed, they're still recognizable as flowers.

Chapter 7

The Upper-world people might once have been the favoured aristocracy, and the Morlocks their mechanical servants: but that had long since passed away. The two species that had resulted from the evolution of man were sliding down towards, or had already arrived at, an altogether new relationship. (7.2)

While the Time Traveller gets to see snapshots of the world at certain points of time, he recognizes that time is an ongoing thing, and that change will continue to occur.

Chapter 11

As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then – though I was still traveling with prodigious velocity – the blinking succession of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace, returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much at first. (11.2)

Change often causes the Time Traveller to start thinking. At first he sees his older housekeeper zoom across the room and the days speed up. Now he's noticing that the sped-up days are starting to slow down again.