Study Guide

The Time Machine Time

By H.G. Wells


The Time Machine is so concerned with the theme of time that "time" is in the title. (And it's so concerned with time that the novel's other themes are all tied up with this one.) The time in The Time Machine isn't last week or next year – that's time on a human scale. Time in The Time Machine is on a scale that's totally beyond anything human. This is geological or even cosmic time. When the Time Traveller jumps into the future, he doesn't watch the lifespan of a person, but the lifespan of a species – or even the lifespan of a star. Thinking about time in this way involves looking at the long view – even though that long view moves people out of the spotlight.

Questions About Time

  1. The Time Traveller says that memory is a form of time travel (1.28). Is it? Are there other ways of time traveling without machinery or magic?
  2. How do people tell time in this book? What signs are there that the Time Traveller might have spent eight days in the future?
  3. When they first discuss it, the dinner guests come up with some reasons why time travel might not be useful. Are they right? Is the Time Machine presented as a useful device?
  4. Does the novel make you think it's better to take the long view or the short-term, day-to-day view? Or is there another option?
  5. Why doesn't the Time Traveller go back in time instead of just going forward?

Chew on This

The Time Machine encourages the reader to see all human action as useless, because nothing lasts forever.

According to The Time Machine, the past and future are ultimately unknowable because the person doing the observing carries with him too many ideas from the present.

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