Study Guide

The Time Machine Chapter 3

By H.G. Wells

Chapter 3

  • The Time Traveller begins his story, which will last until Chapter 12. Here's how it goes:
  • He finishes his machine in the morning and travels a few hours into the future as an experiment. He feels dizzy, but it works.
  • He decides to go farther. He travels faster and sees the world in fast-forward, like a time-lapse video. (Keep in mind, Wells wrote this around the time when movies were first being made and no one had yet done any time-lapse photography. For an example of modern time-lapse video, check out this US Geological Survey video of four weeks in Alaska.)
  • The Time Traveller sees several things happen quickly. His housekeeper, Mrs. Watchett, zooms across his laboratory. Day and night speed by, one after the other, "like the flapping of a black wing" (3.3).
  • He can't really describe his sensations, but he feels kind of sick, as if he were on a switchback (when a railroad track or road zigs and zags).
  • He sees the landscape change. (We don't really like the two movie versions of this book – see "Best of the Web" for more on what we think of them – but we kind of like the scenes where he's traveling far into the future and sees the landscape "melting and flowing" [3.4].)
  • The Time Traveller is excited and nervous about what the future will be like.
  • Then he realizes that if there's something else in the same space as him when he stops, there may be an explosion, because two objects can't occupy the same space at the same time. We think this is something that maybe he should've thought about before.
  • He stops anyway, and suddenly that the Time Machine turns over on its side.
  • He's in the future, sitting in a hailstorm.
  • Again, he can't really describe his sensations.
  • He sees a statue of a sphinx made of white marble on a bronze pedestal. (A sphinx looks like this, but the Time Traveller notes that this one has wings out to the sides.)
  • He worries about what he might find in the future and lifts the Time Machine off its side, just in case he needs to make a quick getaway. But as soon as he's ready to leave, he stops worrying.
  • That's when the people of the future show up. They seem short and frail to the Time Traveller, but also graceful and beautiful.

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