Our initial narrator appears only briefly, in the first two and in the last chapters of the book. Yet it is through his eyes and ears that we experience the Time Traveller’s tale: “In writing it down I feel with only too much keenness the inadequacy of pen and ink—and, above all, my own inadequacy—to express its quality” (p. 16). Unlike some of the other men of Victorian society whom the Traveller gathers at his dinner parties, our initial narrator—presumably in his status as a surrogate for Wells, the author—reserves judgment on the veracity of the Traveller’s story, an open-mindedness that is rewarded at the book’s close when—it seems to all appearances—he narrowly misses witnessing the Traveller’s final departure into other times. Unlike the Traveller, our initial narrator maintains hope for the human race, based primarily on the evidence of the two flowers given the Traveller by Weena, a witness “that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man” (p. 85).
The Time Traveller (“for so it will be convenient to speak of him,” p. 3) is the unnamed protagonist of the novel. He is established early on, by means of dialogue, as a very intelligent person, a man of learning who can speak eloquently about the nature of time and space (“There are really four dimensions…,” p. 4). He also demonstrates, again through dialogue, that he is given to philosophical reflection (his frequent thoughts about what the state of the Eloi and Morlocks’ world says about the destiny of human society; e.g., Chaps. 4, 5). Yet our narrator also lets us know—again, early on, thus creating doubt in readers’ minds regarding the Traveller’s reliability as a narrator—that the Traveller enjoys pranks and practical jokes. He is, we are told, “one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all around him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness” (p. 11). Although he is a social man, as his habit of hosting dinner parties demonstrates, the Traveller is also revealed, ultimately, as something of a pessimist: his experiences in the far future seem only to confirm for him his thinking “but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind” (p. 85).
Weena is the only member of either the Eloi or Morlock peoples in the future who is given a name and who is developed to any degree as an individual character. Weena is described in child-like terms, as friendly and affectionate, generous with her attentions and eagerness to please the Traveller, almost to a fault: “She was exactly like a child. She wanted to be with me always. She tried to follow me everywhere” (p. 40). Yet, despite himself, the Traveller finds himself growing attached to Weena—so that her death at the hands of the Morlocks sorely grieves him: “I felt the intensest wretchedness for the horrible death of little Weena” (p. 71). She had become his friend (at the least); and it is her gift of friendship in the form of two white flowers that become the enduring symbol of hope for humanity at the end of the book.