Geographically the story is confined to a small area near the Thames River in South Kensington, a suburb of London; it is the shift in time that makes the Setting unusual. The story ostensibly opens in the year of its telling, 1895, in the home of the unnamed time traveler. As the traveler takes over the role of narrator, the machine moves him into the year ad 802,701. Society has evolved into two races, the upper-world Eloi and the lower-world Morlocks. The narrator remains in the future for a week, during which time most of the action occurs.

As the time traveler explores the upper world, he frequently refers to the Thames, which has changed its course slightly since 1895, and to neighboring places, but he is primarily concerned with the idyllic rural surroundings and seeming innocence of the world’s childlike inhabitants. He interprets the apparent ease and good health of the Eloi, the abundance of fruit and flowers, and the absence of annoying insects and weeds as a sign that humanity has mastered the problems of his own day. Only when he explores one of the many well-like openings in the area does he find the foreboding underworld, the dwellings and factories of the bestial Morlocks.

To escape from the Morlocks, the traveler moves thirty million years into the future, where he finds a world on the verge of decay, apparently inhabited only by amphibious creatures, a world that he has no desire to explore before returning home.

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