A Fusion Of Genres In H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine

August 31, 2021 by Essay Writer

First of all, The Time Machine can be considered a science fiction novella, since it contains several essential features of the science fiction genre. The fundamental characteristics of the genre, such as science and technology, time travel, non-human characters and a narrative set in an alternative world, can all be found in Wells’ work. The most conspicuous element of science fiction in the novella is the theme of science and technology, which is present throughout the book.

The readers are introduced to the theme at the beginning of the novella through the main character, the Time Traveller, who appears to be a wealthy scientist fascinated with the idea of time travel. The Time Traveller shows particular interest in the field of physics and is schooled in contemporary theories about relativity. Due to his extensive knowledge, he successfully builds a time machine, a vehicle that connects distant points in spacetime and allows him to travel through time, thus allowing the narrative to develop. As he travels through time, the Time Traveller also contemplates on the evolutionary trends he observes and on the existance of the fourth dimension: ‘There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time.’ Time travel and the time machine are therefore used as narrative devices. With the use of these concepts, Wells sets a solid foundation for the development of the plot and suggests the importance of science and technology for the narrative. Although the time machine is perhaps the most evident and most prominent technological device in the novel, there are others that reveal the Time Traveller’s technological accomplishments. For instance, the chairs he designed for his house, which are described by the other characters as extremely comfortable: ‘Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon.’ With these technological inventions, Wells examines the possibilities and implications of new technological concepts in the narrative. However, science in The Time Machine is not based solely on innovative machines and advanced technology. Rather, science is represented by the Time Traveller’s way of thinking.

Throughout the book, the protagonist is an able practicioner of the scientific method of hypothesis, observation, experimentation, and conclusion. He frequently makes observations and creates theories, especially regarding the biology of the Eloi and the Morlocks, in the hopes of gaining new knowledge. In this manner, through the character of the Time Traveller, Wells examines the scientific theory of evolution and includes other scientific fields, such as geology and astronomy, in the novella. Moreover, the idea of time Wells explores in The Time Machine is completely beyond anything human. The Time Traveller does not simply wander some centuries ahead, he travels from the 19th century to the year 802 701. In other words, he does not observe the lifespan of a person, but the lifetime of a species, the lifespan of a star. He watches ‘…the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away.’ Therefore, this is a geological or even cosmic time, and can thus be seen as a component of Science Fiction.

In the Science Fiction genre, the narrative’s setting is always strange, atypical or faraway. All of these features can be found in the distant future depicted in The Time Machine. The distant future that the Time Traveller finds himself in is completely different than the reality he came from, as can be seen by his statement that ‘At first things were very confusing. Everything was so entirely different from the world I had known – even the flowers.’ He progressively familiarizes himself with the new world and discovers that there are hardly any buildings, that the landscape is composed of giant, peculiar plants, and that the human race evolved into two separate species. One of these, the decadent Eloi, are portrayed as ‘very beautiful and graceful creature(s), but indescribably frail’, while the other, the Morlocks, are described as ‘nauseatingly inhuman’ and ‘damned souls’. Since human beings are the only known form of fully conscious and sentient life, any encounter with nonhuman intelligence is seen as perilous in the world of science fiction. Even though the most dominant characters in Science Fiction are not human, like aliens and robots, the genre does not limit itself on inhuman figures. In fact, it questions the notion of humanity and it explores its limits, one example being Frankenstein’s monster. Therefore, both the unintelligent, dissolute Elois, and the disgusting, vile Morlocks, can be classified into the same Science Fiction category, which deals with people and humanoid figures that are undeniably less than human. The Eloi, for example, have not retained writing nor fire, one of the oldest and simplest forms of technology. Although technology is of great significance in the narrative, the Time Traveller rarely describes the technology he sees in the future. More often than not, he suggests the lack of it.

As a deduction, Wells seemingly focuses on the effects of technology on people, how humans adapt to using technological devices and how they are changed by them. Due to all these indications, The Time Machine can be read as a science fiction story, but the underlying layers of meaning should not be overlooked.


Read more