Study Guide

The Time Machine Chapter 5

By H.G. Wells

Chapter 5

  • Night falls. The Time Traveller on the hill looks for the White Sphinx so he'll know how to get back.
  • He can't see the Time Machine, which freaks him out. He runs to the Sphinx, but can't find the Machine anywhere.
  • On his run, he startles a white animal that he thinks is a deer.
  • He goes to the big grey building and startles the little people. He demands to know where his Time Machine is. At the same time, he knows they couldn't have taken it. He reminds us that they're too weak (just in case we missed it the first billion times he said it).
  • After freaking out for most of the night, the Time Traveller feels better the next morning. He finds evidence that the Time Machine has been moved into the pedestal of the White Sphinx.
  • He can't figure out how to open the pedestal, and the little people all act weird about the Sphinx. But since he knows where it is, he's calmer and decides to explore.
  • Also, he tries to be nice to the little people, which involves amusing them with matches.
  • He experiments with the wells, which seem to be sucking air down into them. He thinks this might be part of the sanitation system. But he reveals to us that he's wrong about that.
  • He also tells us that it's not entirely his fault that he's wrong. See, in other books about time travel, there's always someone from the future to help the traveler understand. (He calls this person a "cicerone," which means "guide.") But he's all alone, so he has lots of questions and no one to ask.
  • For example, where are the cemeteries? Also, the little people don't have machinery and they don't work, so where does their stuff come from?
  • The Time Traveller saves a little person from drowning when none of the other little people try. (In case you haven't heard, they can be lazy and weak.) The Time Traveller befriends this little person, whose name is Weena.
  • Weena hangs around the Time Traveller, and he learns from her that the little people are afraid of the dark.
  • Then the Time Traveller tells us that he had a weird experience that morning. First, he was awoken early by a dream that something soft and gross was touching him. Then when he left the grey stone house, he thought he saw some ghost-like figures carrying something.
  • Another day, the Time Traveller explores the ruin he mentioned in Chapter 4, and he accidentally startles some white Thing. The Thing runs off down a well, which has handles for climbing.
  • Although the Time Traveller hasn't gotten a good look at the white Thing, he realizes that there are two different species of humans in the future. There are the graceful but dumb child-like people who live aboveground, and there are the horrible monster-like people who live underground.
  • He thinks this split is a continuation of processes that are going on in his own day. For instance, someone who worked on the subway in London all day might not see the sun very much. After thousands of years of evolution, maybe the underground worker would become suited to living underground permanently.
  • Finally, he gives these two groups of people their names: the aboveground people are the Eloi; the belowground people are Morlocks. (For more on them and their names, see "Characters.")
  • The Time Traveller theorizes that the Eloi are the descendents of aristocrats and the Morlocks are the descendents of the working class. He thinks they get along, but he still has questions. If the Eloi and Morlocks get along, then why did the Morlocks take his Time Machine? And why does Weena cry when he asks her about the Morlocks?
  • The Time Traveller feels bad about making Weena cry, so he uses his matches to amuse her. (Raise your hand if you think it's a bad idea to use matches to amuse people aboveground when you've just discovered a species of people living underground.)

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