Study Guide

The Time Machine Passivity

By H.G. Wells


There's a lot of passivity in The Time Machine, from people lounging in their awesome chairs all day, to entire societies giving up when the monsters come to get them, to the world no longer spinning. The most obvious example of passivity is the laziness and weakness of the Eloi, who can't keep up with the Time Traveller. Similarly, there's the laziness of the 19th-century dinner guests. Maybe they work hard during the day, but what we see is mostly people sitting around after dinner, drinking and talking. Third, we could also talk about passivity on the cosmic scale. When the Time Traveller visits the very distant future, it seems that the universe has lost energy and slowed down.

Questions About Passivity

  1. Who is more passive, the Eloi, the Morlocks, or the 19th-century humans? In what ways are these different groups passive?
  2. Passivity seems like a negative trait in this novel, but is action always the right choice? A useful passage to think about is when the Time Traveller examines the Palace of Green Porcelain.
  3. Is Weena as passive as the other Eloi?
  4. We've identified a few different ways to be passive. One could be lazy or paralyzed with fear, and neither case involves much movement. Are there other ways to be passive in this novel?

Chew on This

The Time Machine makes two contradictory predictions about the universe: 1) everything will slow down and stop; 2) everything will continue to change.

While the Time Traveller has bad things to say about passivity, the novel shows that action doesn't always pay off.

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