The Time Machine: Summary:chapter 6-7

Chapter 6


Summary: The Traveller is intrigued when he sees in the distance a large, Oriental-looking structure that he thinks of as “the Palace of Green Porcelain.” Instead of investigating the Palace right away, however, he resolves to descend to the Morlocks’ underworld. He feels the journey is essential for recovering his Machine. Leaving an anxious Weena behind, the Traveller climbs down one of the wells, very nearly falling off of the rungs that line the shaft’s side (ladders the Morlocks can navigate expertly). Beneath the surface, the noise of machinery dominates. The Traveller is accosted by several Morlocks. He is able to temporarily drive them away by lighting his safety matches; however, he has used so many amusing the Eloi above that only four remain to him, all of which he uses up during his subterranean expedition. The Traveller clambers back up the shaft to the surface.


Analysis: Wells’ descriptions of the Morlocks’ underground domain emphasize the impersonal nature of industry, perhaps continuing the author’s critique of his own, Industrial Revolution society begun in the previous chapter: “The air was full of the throb and hum of machinery pumping air down the shaft” (p. 50); “Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows…” (p. 51). The Traveller’s choice of word in the latter quote merits some consideration, for in literature, the “grotesque” refers to “interest in the irrational, distrust of any cosmic order, and frustration at [humanity’s] lot in the universe” (C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature, Indianapolis: Odyssey Press, 1972; p. 246). The Morlocks are certainly physically grotesque—“You can scarce imagine how nauseatingly inhuman they looked,” the Traveller declares (p. 52)—but, more than that, the society in which they live is grotesque, or deformed: not only their underground realm but also the entire world of the future. As we noted in the previous chapter, this society the Traveller expected to find a utopian achievement of human evolution in fact turns out to be far from it. In the 20th century, authors have invested the grotesque with some positive value; Flannery O’Connor, for example, declared it to be “man forced to meet the extremes of his own nature,” with potentially sublime, revelatory results (Holman, p. 246). In Wells’ novel, however, the grotesque does not carry positive connotations. It is a medium of revelation and a display of “the extremes of [man’s] own nature,” but these extremes are, as the Traveller sees them, a fate to be avoided.


Present-day readers may be surprised by the Traveller’s mention of a Kodak camera: “If only I had thought of a Kodak! I could have flashed that glimpse of the Underworld in a second, and examined it at leisure” (p. 51). Yet Eastman Kodak did indeed begin operations in Britain in 1885 ( Always interested in the latest scientific developments, Wells is adding a realistic detail to his fantastic narrative. 


Chapter 7


Summary: Weena expresses concern about impending “Dark Nights” to the Traveller, monthly periods of darkness near the new moon in which the Traveller supposes the Morlocks return to the surface. The Traveller resolves to defend himself, to find a “refuge from Fear” and to manufacture weapons. He sets out with Weena for the Palace of Green Porcelain he saw earlier. (Along the way, Weena gives the Travller some flowers, which he produces, albeit in a withered state, for his tale’s audience.) They spend one night on the journey; and though the Traveller imagines the Morlocks will be pursuing him, he sees none that night. He does, however, realize that the meat he saw the Morlocks eating was nothing else than Eloi flesh. 


Analysis: The Traveller refines his hypothesis and speculates that the Morlocks, formerly the Eloi’s servants, are now exacting revenge on the Eloi for ages of abuse and neglect. Yet he states this “altogether new relationship” (p. 54) between the two in social evolutionary terms. The two species still retain their old statuses as “favoured aristocracy” and “mechanical servants”; but, over time, they have begun “sliding down,” or, in effect, devolving, together. The Traveller views the current situation as the inevitable result of generations of change, but also in moral terms: “Ages ago, thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother out of the ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back—changed!” (p. 54). The current status, thus, emerges as judgment upon Industrial Revolution society, in which (as Wells might see it) the “thrust out” poor are made to serve the upper class in order to scratch out a survival. (It is ironic, then, that the Traveller would call his own time “this ripe prime of the human race” (p. 54): the statement is literally true when comparing the Travellers’ day to the day of the Eloi and Morlocks, but also untrue because the seeds of that grim future were being actively planted by the Traveller and his contemporaries.) Note, too, how the Traveller’s reactions to the Morlocks as “something inhuman and malign” (p. 53) and “inhuman sons of men” (p. 58) ultimately dehumanize him: “I felt like a beast…” (p. 53). On the surface he is referring only to his feeling of entrapment in the future; still, his choice of words is revealing. Whenever we “loathe” others (p. 53), we become less than human. It is a small touch, but one of many through which Wells critiques his own, highly stratified society. This line of thinking is continued when the Traveller, at the chapter’s end, allows that both Eloi and Morlock are vastly different from what he has known as humanity; and yet “the Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to claim my sympathy” (p. 59). Unsurprisingly, a member of the upper class from the Victorian Era identifies with the “upper class” of the future, despite “their degradation and their Fear” (p. 59) and despite his realization that his own contemporaries bear the blame for setting this dystopic chain of “devolution” in motion. 


The revelation (strongly foreshadowed: “the meat…. had a vague sense of something familiar,” p. 54) that the Morlocks are cannibals, feeding on Eloi flesh, intensifies the novel’s critique of Victorian society: “Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon the labours of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his watchword and excuse, and in the fulness of time Necessity had come home to him” (p. 58). In other words, the Eloi are reaping what they have sown. Beginning in the Traveller’s own time, the leisure class metaphorically cannibalized the worker class; now, the worker class’ descendants are literally cannibalizing the leisure class. Wells’ sparing use of biblical phraseology—“the fulness of time” (cf. Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10) and, describing the Eloi, “fatted cattle” (cf. the prophet Amos’ indictment of the rich in Amos 4:1: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’”)—rhetorically strengthens his case against Industrial Revolution society. Weena is afraid of monthly “Dark Nights,” but it is clear from the Traveller’s account that the whole of “far futurity” is a “Dark Night” for the two species of the human race, owing to the “Great Fear” (p. 57) between them.


The Traveller’s (unsuccessful) attempt to adopt “a Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy in decay” (p. 58) refers to Thomas Carlyle, “the leading social critic of early Victorian England… [who] preached against materialism and mechanism during the industrial revolution” (