Literary Qualities

Wells once said that the challenge faced by a writer of scientific romances is to “trick” the reader into accepting some plausible assumption and then to make the story as human and as real as possible, avoiding unnecessary fantastic elements. The humanness of the traveler is particularly evident in his efforts to understand the world in which he finds himself and in the scenes in which he feels his isolation from other humans. And even though the reader suspects that the idea of a “fourth dimension” stretches known scientific facts, the traveler’s argument is developed so logically that time travel sounds plausible.

The trip into the future contains one of the most vivid sections of description within the story, as the traveler moves rapidly through changing seasons and civilizations. The elusive vision creates a blend of colors and shapes which not only convey a sense of speed, but also prepare the reader for the moment when the traveler is literally dumped from his machine into the future world.

Wells controls the frame technique effectively. He allows the traveler’s guests to raise Questions at the beginning and end of the novel, and surrounds even this frame with the narrator’s combined wonder and belief. This story-within-a-story takes the form of a dramatic monologue as the time traveler relates his adventures. Although there is no dialogue within this central narrative, the traveler’s occasional direct address to his audience personalizes the lengthy account.

Details such as the traveler’s disheveled appearance after his journey, the movements of his housekeeper at the moments of his departure and return, the position of the time machine, geographical allusions to the Thames River, and the strange flowers in his pocket all lend credibility to his narrative. Despite passages of philosophical commentary, the plot moves quickly, intertwining the traveler’s interpretations of the social and economic world of the future, his hints of coming adventures, and his ongoing narrative.