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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - Chapters X, XI, XII and XIII (10 - 13)

#158: Mar. - May 2018 (Fiction)
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The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - Chapters X, XI, XII and XIII (10 - 13)

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The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
Chapters X, XI, XII and XIII (10 - 13)
Please use this thread to discuss the above referenced chapters.
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Harry Marks
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Re: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - Chapters X, XI, XII and XIII (10 - 13)

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These are the payoff chapters, but Wells is not eager to deliver much of a payoff. Unlike Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", which Wells may have been familiar with, it doesn't go in much for suspenseful action or blunt contrast. Twain could not resist building a story, however clunky, around his neat idea. Wells apparently just wants us to reflect on the social extremes and what a long period of evolution might do with them.

The nights of the dark of the moon are the occasion for the light-shunning Morlocks to make forays into the upper world. After his exploration to the underworld in chapter 9, the Time Traveler sets out to investigate a prominent building in the distance. His child-like companion Weena, whom he must carry at times, has expressed dread about the Dark Nights and resists the long journey, but goes along anyway out of attachment.

His reflections over the journey include noting that the constellations have changed, in so many cycles around the sun, from the differences in relative motion of stars. Wells' explanation of this is thin enough one may infer that it was a popular topic already among his audience of readers, who are presumably for the most part science buffs.

In the same section, the Time Traveler reflects on the relations between these peoples, with the Morlocks apparently making clothing for the Eloi, for example, and comes to the conclusion that the Morlocks are keeping the Eloi as "fatted cattle" to be raided (or culled) in the Dark Nights. In one of the few passages which reflect his Socialist leanings, he says,
H.G. Wells wrote:Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was coming upon me, by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human selfishness. 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 fullness of time Necessity had come home to him. I even tried a Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy in decay. But this attitude of mind was impossible. However great their intellectual degradation, the Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to claim my sympathy, and to make me perforce a sharer in their degradation and their Fear.

H. G. Wells. The Time Machine (Kindle Locations 888-892).
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Lord Grantham!

The Time Traveler finds the "Palace" he had seen is actually a museum. This occasions a few random reflections on the passage of time, but doesn't amount to much for the story. Books have fallen to dust, including his own treatises on physics. He finds camphor there and fails to find gunpowder materials, and twists a handle off an old machine to use as pry-bar and weapon. Something symbolic in that, perhaps - grabbing whatever materials fit the purpose, in the same way that peasants take bricks and stones from old monuments.

Then he gets through the darkness by lighting a fire to hold off the light-sensitive Morlocks, in a kind of return to humanity's roots, perhaps? His use of camphor seems unnecessary to me here, basically just stretching out the time that the Morlocks are held at bay while he busies himself building a campfire. But maybe there is some significance from the life of the times. As he is building his fire for the night, and the Morlocks crowding round him and the fainted Weena, it turns out that his first fire, left far behind, has ignited the dry forest and is coming toward them. He got separated from Weena in the strange combination of fighting with lighting the fire, and so he must run to escape the fire without being able to bring her along.

At one point the fire more or less surrounds a large group of Morlocks and our Time Traveler sees them blundering around aimlessly, blinded by the light. I can't help thinking this is an Oxbridge man's impression of the working classes. He is tempted to just kill a slew of them out of general revulsion, but resists. At another point he is convincing himself it is a nightmare and struggling to awaken from it, while many Morlocks are plunging into the fire out of blindness and madness. He wrote well before WWI, but there was enough evidence from Crimea and the U.S. Civil War to already have an idea what war was coming to, for a student of history and technology like Wells. So maybe this is an image for that devastation and mindless slaughter?

Next the narrator returns to the White Sphinx where his Time Machine has been hauled into a room behind bronze doors (both sphinx and bronze doors are historical references, and references to history, if you work at it just a little). Recovering his Machine has been his animating goal for most of the book, giving him reason to learn about the people of this time and to begin to grasp the strange dynamics between them. To his surprise the doors are open. He guesses it's a trap, and sure enough the doors close behind him once he is well inside, but by then he has found his machine. He makes his escape. A bit contrived, if you ask me, but it works, especially given that plot dynamics are almost beside the point in this story.
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