The time traveller’s tinkering with time trips along with a contraption with the ability to waltz through space and dimensions was not only H.G. Wells gracious way of conquering the well-worn trope of time travel but also a complaisant approach of his towards calling to action to what, at the time, was causing an increasingly decaying Victorian human society.
‘Spoiler-Free’ The Time Machine Summary
The opening scene of ‘The Time Machine‘ sees H.G. Wells unite together with a group of men – including character the narrator himself – who are obvious close acquaintances hanging out after dinner, as they all have their interest seized, eyes pinned to the man in the centre – the time traveller – as he raves on about his experiment which proves that time is the fourth dimension.
To back up his long, bold claims, the time traveller opts to show a glimmer of proof just to convert them. He produces an itsy-bitsy time machine and immediately makes it fizzle out in a blink of an eye, leaving his guest in awe.
The following week after-dinner hangout is upon us, as is the norm for folks of the Victorian era. The group – clearly enchanted by their strange time traveller friend and his compelling stories – comes right out and on time for another treat. But, the worse thing happens. They are slapped with the biggest irony of their joint existence as they find their host, the time traveller, crashing in late, looking like crap at his own dinner party.
Well, all is not screwed. The time traveller cleans you, comports himself, and joins the group who, by now are all seated as he begins his story. But this one story about time travel would be detailed, packed with a reality of beings and existence that violate their entire understanding of things.
The Time Machine Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
The Frame Story
Present-day Victorian England
The narrator gets us underway in the first chapter, opening scenery at the home of the time traveller who we find speaking to a small, all-men group and the narrator being a part of it.
The discussion happens to be based around maths and science, and the speaker appears to be making good strife arguing his audience into his belief about time and it is the fourth dimension and, like all the other three dimensions, has all cubic properties in length, breadth, and width. Much of the crowd feels violated by the time traveller’s claims and even it even gets worse when he tells them it’s possible to move to and fro in the fourth dimension as can be done in all three.
While his first hypothesis gets these guys angry and not knowing how to feel, the second one pretty much cracked them up that by now they are making a laughing stock off of the host’s argument about the reality of moving up and down in time. A bit hurt, the time traveller attempts to clear their doubts by producing a tiny clock-size time machine crafted with crystals and ivory.
On the miniature contraption, he shows them two levers, one with the ability to whisk the machine into the future and the other able to launch it into the past. He instructs one of them to pull a lever and when he does, the tiny machine zooms off and disappears.
The time traveller explains that the device is now in the future but when one of his guests asks why they are not seeing the device since they themselves are moving towards the future, he concludes that the machine is gliding at full gear, faster than can be seen with mere eyes. The guys are disbelieving, but when he shows them a bigger version in which he plans to navigate the corners of time, they are amazed and stupefied.
The following week, the narrator tells us that the guys, along with a few new guests, regroup again after dinner, still at the house of their host, the time traveller. However, to their biggest surprise, the host stumbles in late, dirty, and unkempt.
While the time traveller goes off to wash up, the narrator, in his defence, hints their host may have been busy travelling through time. This cracks them up and what follows is a huge dose of incredulous remarks. The host comes back in but is in no mood to respond to their mocking gestures and promises to only tell them his story if they remain calm and do not utter a word. With beguiled minds, they agree and he tells them his story.
The Main Story
Year 802, 701 AD; A Trip into the Future
The time traveller mounts his time machine, pulls the forward level a little, and notices a giddy feeling. As he recovers and looks up at his lab clock, he discovers he’s five hours into the future. He pulls the lever a tad more and his machine vanishes, now floating through time in rapid succession. He is scared as he watches the sky and sun whirl dangerously fast, the building rushing past him as if to smash him into oblivion. He is petrified he might crash into a building if he attempts to stop the machine. He does, anyway, but finds himself in the middle of a hail storm.
The time traveller makes to calm down but he’s not out of the woods yet. He is face to face with a giant, white Sphinx anchored on a burnished pedestal. Surely this is it, “I’m dead,” he must think. He wonders what manner of creature humanity has educed into. In his attempt to shirk, it dawns on him that, for a while now, he’s been the cynosure for many strange eyes owned by equally strange yet beautiful tiny creatures dressed in rich robes and attires.
The Time Traveler Meets the Peace-loving Eloi Race
Out of a close building, he is accosted by one of the creatures. Elegant but weak and fragile, the humanoid reminds him of someone sickened by tuberculosis. He is besieged by more of them soon. He notices they have curly hair, cute trimmed lips, and giant eyes inside which, instead of fear and shivering, he finds calmness. It feels like they’re keen on knowing where he’s come from so he attempts to explain, pointing to the sun.
The creatures don’t understand him. They imagine he’s some sort of a God gracing them from the wonderful hail storm. They are as dumb as they are fragile, he thinks. By now the creatures adore him and throw at him all kinds of unpopular flowers as they transport him to a large chamber, treating him to a meal of unusual fruits. But before he leaves behind his time machine, he must make sure he disconnects the levers so no one can tamper with them while he’s away.
As the merriment lingers, the time traveller – caught in the euphoria of the moment – attempts a conversation in the language of the creatures. It comes out horribly and they laugh at him. He is disappointed so he steps outside for fresh air but finds out he’s in the year 802, 701 AD. He observes that so much has changed from the world he comes from.
For example, creatures have no clear gender diversification and now cohabit together in large buildings. He likens this dispensation to a communist paradise and tags the creatures as end products of a world without pain and hardship. But wait. He pauses to ponder on his theory. Even the narrator is unsure they’re valid.
He Encounters the Unfriendly Morlocks and Loses his Time Machine
As he tries to marry conflicting theories in his head, he notices it’s getting dark. He rushes towards the direction of the giant Sphinx statue where he left his time machine but is shocked he can’t find it. Now he’s become restive. He is sure no one has driven it to another timeline because he remembers uncoupling the levers. He however maintains that it’s possible that someone moved it in space to a nearby location.
The next daylight breaks and still the traveller has no lead on his lost contraption. He imagines a lot – including that, and maybe, someone hid it in a fortified lock underneath the giant sphinx. It is awkward to try and break into the public statue so instead, he resolves to befriend the creatures and maybe learn their language and earn their confidence.
Through socialization, he learns their language and by exploration, he discovers some pits leading to an underground bunker. From these pits, he can hear machine sounds rushing out and it feels like his contraption might be buried under. The narrator notes that these findings pop up a new theory in the time traveller’s head, which contradicts his prior conviction about the creatures and their world. He must find a way to get into the bunker, grab his machine and take off.
Weena is Saved from Drowning
As he draws strategies for his underground mission sitting by the riverside, he notices a creature in the waters struggling to stay afloat. He saves her and soon discovers her name’s Weena, a smart and affectionate being who, like the others, is afraid of the dark. Weena is very caring and protective of time travel, but he only makes of her a child.
A fresh morning comes and he grows eager to find his time machine. As he stations by the veranda gazing over the landscape, he notices two large eyes staring back from a dark, cave-like building. He rushes in the direction but is outrun by the creature who cowers through one of the nearby pits.
The traveller stops to think there’s life under the ground, in the pits. A new hits theory hits him. He ponders that if this is true, the pit creatures must then be the labourers of the cute creatures he first met above the ground on arrival. He compares this to the situation in his own world where there are lazy rich and poor labourers. Weena tells him the underground creatures are the ‘Morlocks’ and her people – the ‘Eloi,’ but as he pressed further in curiosity, she is pissed and disinterested.
Weena Joins the Search Party for the Missing Time Machine
The traveller sets out to retrieve his time machine from the underground world of the Morlocks. Weena is worried for his safety as he descends through one of the pits, clambering down the edges. The corners are dark but he manages to latch on to an alcove upon which he is now resting.
The traveller makes to continue his journey down the pit but it’s too dark so he ignites a fire stick to ascertain his next footstep but discovers a swarm of Morlocks hanging loosely from walls to walls, eyes fixed on him. He notices they’re feasting on some kind of meat. A dead Eloi? Little wonder the Eloi are scared of the dark, he thinks.
As his fire burns out, he is attacked by a crowd of Morlocks but he miraculously climbs back out to Weena at the overworld. They’re safe, but between the fading twilight and encroaching dark night and him having exhausted all his firesticks, it won’t be for long. For one thing, the Morlocks have reputation for scavenging at night.
The Place of Green Porcelain
In Weena’s company, the traveller searches for a safe rest as far as a place the narrator calls ‘the Palace of Green Porcelain.’ As they hit the road, Weena, in her routine frisky mood, dances around excitedly, plucking and shoving flowers in his pockets. The narrator explains that the traveller then pulls out flowers from his pocket and shows it to the guys as proof. They are here. Still, it’s precarious out here so he tucks Weena to sleep on a nearby plain but stays awake, guarding the terrain the night.
Weena is Killed, The Time Traveler Escapes and Returns Home; The End
At the place which happens to be an old museum, the traveller finds and refills on firesticks and flammable camphor, just enough for him and Weena. It’s dead in the night and the creepy Morlocks are crawling out into the woods in search of the intruder. The time traveller is petrified and fortuitously lights his fire stick but it gets out of hand and scorches through a large area of the woods, killing scores of Morlocks.
The kingdom of Morlocks is enraged for their loss and declares war and destruction on any living being nearby. Weena is killed in the raid and the time traveller is lucky to escape again. Unknown to him he is closely trailed by the creatures. He heads back to the giant sphinx statue and discovers the lock has been broken.
As he walks in through the pedestal to collect his time machine, he notices some angry Morlocks already catching up with him. He jumps quickly into his vehicle and disappears further into the future. Now, he is thirty million years into the future and this feels to him like the end of the world, or more appropriately, the end of time. There’s no sign of life, of humanity, plants, or animals. Only a giant, very dark rock-like entity appears to have life and it’s making a cunning, ominous stride towards him. He is filled with fear and uncertainty, but before he faints he quickly jumps into his time machine, and this time he zooms back home.