Social Sensitivity

Wells’s theories of regressive evolution and his dissatisfaction with many of the social and economic factors of his own time contribute to the pessimistic tone of many sections of the novel. The traveler’s philosophical discourses show that the unpleasant picture of the future need not be realized, however. Choices available to humans in 1895, and to humans today, can indeed change the course of the future for the better. Welles’s shocking picture challenges the complacent view that “progress” left to itself always produces something better.

The traveler’s first impressions of the future world are modified by his experiences there. He notices, for example, the beautiful vegetation, which seems to require so little attention from the Eloi, and concludes that control of nature no longer drains human energy. People of Wells’s day hoped for farms and gardens free from insects and blights, a hope apparently fulfilled in the world of the future. But the use of pesticides and fertilizers to achieve this hope in modern times has already generated unforeseen toxic side-effects. In a similar way, Wells’s contemporaries hoped for a life of abundance and ease, but the traveler later realizes that the ease of the Eloi’s life probably contributed to the dangerous inertia that enables the Morlocks to dominate them. The traveler also believes that he has found a world without fear but learns that in reality fear has intensified and is focused on one object-the Morlocks.

Through the course of the story, the reader is constantly reminded of oppressive situations and attitudes that produce this world of extremes. Wells wrote The Time Machine at the end of the 19th century, but over one hundred years later the world is still coming to grips with the struggles between developed and undeveloped countries, between those who live in luxury on top of the social and economic ladder and those who struggle daily to survive. Wells’s message to his contemporaries is still relevant: oppression and injustice lead inexorably to social and economic disruption.