Yet, writing on the heels of the industrial revolution
Wells was immersed in a society saturated by the promise of new technology.
Suddenly new goods were available and once arduous tasks were made easier.
However, the presence of the Morlocks, who have resorted to cannibalism because
their basic needs have not been met makes it clear that technology has not been
liberating for everyone. The industrial revolution also bought the promise of
peril, new dangers such as rampant pollution, and exacerbations of social
divisions based on new wealth and poor labour conditions. Marx and Engels noted
that, ‘not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to
itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those
weapons – the modern working class – the proletarians’1.
In The Time Machine, the Eloi are
representative of the Bourgeoisie upper classes and the Morlocks represent the
working classes. Wells makes that distinction clear, as it is a product of the
Victorian society, the contrast between the ‘capitalist and laborer’ and each
species in the novel represents these two groups. This is conveyed in the
difference between the lives of the two species. The Eloi are romantic
and have a conventional pastoral setting, such as ‘the palace of green
they do not have to work. Whereas the Morlocks are immersed in a ‘very stuffy
landscape of machinery, mirroring a dystopian setting. This is symbolic of the promise
and peril of technological innovation. Thus, this is reflected in the social conditions
of Victorian England, in which technology created ease, wealth and freedom for
the upper classes, and punishing working and living conditions for lower
classes. A greater expansion on this view is that the time traveller and his
invention are indicative of ‘the white man, the Victorian man, to abhumaness’4.
This means at the time of imperialism the time traveller is symbolic of the civilising
white man who is trying to bring under control ‘ape-like cannibals’5. Yet although the Eloi who represent the upper
classes are representative of aestheticism and decadence they have also become
feeble and effeminate. Even though the time traveller is intrigued by the
Morlocks use of machinery as they are more evolved he still sympathises with
the Eloi, despite their degradation of their intellect, because of their human
form. Moreover, Wells has a similar pragmatic way of interpreting literature. He
doesn’t write like a literary person regarding what he writes more important
that how he writes. He views literature as a waste of labour, which is
reflected in the novel when the time traveller sees the literature being
twentieth century saw tremendous technological advance, particularly the start
of World War Two which initiated the manufacturing of new weaponry such as,
aircrafts, and chemical and atomic bombs for the first time. George Claeys notes
‘In both history
and literature, ‘dystopia’ has been most frequently identified with the
colossal tragedies of twentieth-century despotism’6. In particular,
in ‘classic’ dystopian fiction the development of modern totalitarianism such
as what was seen in Nazi Germany, Fascist Spain and Italy and Stalinist Russia,
whose ‘treatment of state was all encompassing’7.
After these so called ‘devil’s decades’, years of mass unemployment, mass
persecution and world war, utopias were in retreat. Raymond Williams contends
that the years between 1920 and 1940 were the classic era of the dystopia
genre, as ‘stories
of a secular paradise of the future reached their peak…and have been converted into
their opposites: the stories of a future secular hell’8.
Krishan Kumar supports this notion, confirming there was ‘a new generation of
that emerged, most famously Zamyatin, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, who for
them ‘if reason and
science provided any guide to the future, it was in the nightmare form of their
This meant it was grotesque for them to view science and reason as the deliverers
of humanity, after science and reason were responsible for global mass
destruction caused by technological advancements.
1 K Marx
and F Engels, The Communist Manifesto,
(1848), p. 226.
2 H.G. Wells, p. 78.
3 H.G. Wells, p. 66.
4 K Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin-de
Siecle, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Farrell, p. 109.
Claeys, The Cambridge Companion to
Utopian Literature, (Cambridge University Press: 2010), p.5.
7 Gregory Claeys,
8 Raymond Williams (1956), published as ‘Science Fiction’ in
Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 15: 3 (Nov. 1988), p. 357)
9 Krishan Kumar,
Utopia and Anti-Utopia In Modern Times,
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), pp. 224-5.
10 Krishan Kumar,