We’ve talked extensively in class about why Wells decided to present the vast majority of “characters” in the novel as their professions, or rather primary role in the novel, such as the time traveler. I’m interested in how this affects the way the reader and the main character experience events in the novel, such as the perception of radical change in humans when the time traveler first encounters the Eloi and the Morlocks as well as the vastly changed world he conveys to us near the close of the novel. What does it mean for us to view these events, especially the death of the sun, that we understand scientifically as a possibility? Moreover, do we really experience them from a human perspective in this novel since the main character is wearing his scientist hat throughout?
For me, the last chunk of this text brought up a lot of comparisons to Nightfall, and think a comparison between the two will be fruitful, especially with the similarity of the stock characters in each. In both texts, there is a hazy scientific understanding of what will happen in the future (the very near future in Nightfall) that will bring about essentially the end of society. However, in Nightfall, this end seems simultaneously inevitable, but still somehow under the scope of human control—if the humans could somehow control their panic in the face of literal darkness, society may be able to continue. However, this idea of possible change—that only exists at all if we take the text not to be determinst—does not exist at the actual end of human society in The Time Machine, but does in some form during the encountering of the Eloi and the Morlocks. Why, then, does the scientist in The Time Machine not do what he can to stop it, such as spread awareness? As mentioned in class, why travel again instead of trying to deal with the problem at hand?
Another curious thing about this text is that the author does at some points experience horror at the various future states of mankind; however, the types of emotions he experiences originate from very different sources. With the first future that we receive, his initial reaction is scientific curiosity and then becomes more horrified slowly when he realizes just how much society has changed and just how weak the elite that he identifies with more has become. An example of this is when he realizes why the Eloi may fear the Morlocks: “Then I thought of the Great Fear that was between the species, and for the first time, with a sudden shiver, came the clear knowledge of what the meat I had seen might be. Yet it was too horrible!” (124). I think it’s interesting that his emotional reactions to things come from his own understanding of them instead of pure observations, and reminds me of what Gould was saying with the storytelling, which in this case seems to be working against the time traveler as he is essentially scaring himself with his imagination. On the first read, I didn’t really question the numerous hypotheses he presented because they sounded plausible. And, as Gould may suggest, they very well could be true, but they could also easily be false. How are we supposed to approach these, as readers? Why isn’t there more concrete evidence as the narrator frames it as a cautionary tale?
On the other hand, the time traveler’s reaction to the essential end of the world with the death of the sun doesn’t really involve conjecture because he is not extrapolating from his interactions with “people,” but instead just reacting directly to the world he sees surrounding him. It becomes much more visceral: “A horror from this darkness came on me. The cold, that smote to my marrow, and the pain I felt in breathing overcame me” (148). He uses “came” twice, as though the feeling just descended on him as a natural reaction to these phenomena. I thought it was an interesting contrast to the slow build-up of horror as he gathers more information in the earlier time. I’m curious to hear what other folks made of this difference.