Study Guide

The Time Machine Fear

By H.G. Wells


Generally speaking, we don't like being afraid (except for Halloween, scary movies, and roller coaster rides). But fear can be useful: for example, when it tells us to get out of the way when a falling boulder is about to smash us. This seems to be the position that The Time Machine takes on fear: it's a good motivator, and sometimes you need to be motivated. So in some ways, The Time Machine celebrates fear.

However, while fear sometimes helps the Time Traveller, it sometimes trips him up. For instance, when his Time Machine disappears, rather than look at the issue calmly and think about what's best to do, the Time Traveller runs around and yells at the Eloi (which almost never helps). So fear in The Time Machine can help or it can hurt. In this sense, fear is a lot like fire or other tools: useful in some situations, but dangerous when it gets out of control.

Questions About Fear

  1. What do the various characters fear?
  2. How does fear relate to the other emotions the Time Traveller feels, like awe? How does fear relate to passivity?
  3. When does fear help the Time Traveller? When does it hurt him or his plan?
  4. Are there times when the Time Traveller should be more afraid than he is?

Chew on This

Fear is a useful emotion in The Time Machine if it can be channeled into action.

In The Time Machine, fear is part of what makes us human, but only a small part.

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