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The Time Machine

Cover of The Time Machine

The Time Machine

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Published in 1895, The Time Machine was the first novel to suggest the theme of time travel by machine, and along with other books by Wells, it was a forerunner of the contemporary science fiction genre, then known as “scientific romances.”

Wells wrote mainly speculative fiction concerned with the contemporary problems of human society and its possible futures. While his works express a hope in human technology and progress, this is tempered by a realization of the possible extinction of humanity through the very same technology and the predilections of human nature.

There is a strong ethical component to his work and this relates to the ambivalence that he often expressed about the potentialities of human nature. One of the central issues that concerned him was the disparity between the elite and the masses. The Time Machine explores these concerns in a setting 800,000 years into the future.
Published in 1895, The Time Machine was the first novel to suggest the theme of time travel by machine, and along with other books by Wells, it was a forerunner of the contemporary science fiction genre, then known as “scientific romances.”

Wells wrote mainly speculative fiction concerned with the contemporary problems of human society and its possible futures. While his works express a hope in human technology and progress, this is tempered by a realization of the possible extinction of humanity through the very same technology and the predilections of human nature.

There is a strong ethical component to his work and this relates to the ambivalence that he often expressed about the potentialities of human nature. One of the central issues that concerned him was the disparity between the elite and the masses. The Time Machine explores these concerns in a setting 800,000 years into the future.
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  • From Chapter 1 THE Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere, when thought runs gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And he put it to us in this way - marking the points with a lean forefinger - as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his fecundity.
    "You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception."

    "Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?" said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.

    "I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you. You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions."

    "That is all right," said the Psychologist.

    "Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real existence." "There I object," said Filby. "Of course a solid body may exist. All real things -"

    "So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an instantaneous cube exist?"

    "Don't follow you," said Filby.

    "Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?"

    Filby became pensive. "Clearly," the Time Traveller proceeded, "any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and - Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives."

    "That," said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to relight his cigar over the lamp; "that . . . very clear indeed."

    "Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively overlooked," continued the Time Traveller, with a slight accession of cheerfulness. "Really this is what is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of looking at Time. There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it. But some foolish people have got hold of the wrong side of that idea. You have all heard what they have to say about this Fourth Dimension?"

    "I have not," said the Provincial Mayor.


About the Author-
  • Herbert George Wells was born into a decidedly middle-class family on September 21, 1866, in the London borough of Bromley. His father was a tradesman and his mother a Lady’s maid. Central to the experiences of his youth was an acute awareness of class structure that was emphasized by the position of his family in the class-conscious English society of the time.

    After a basic education he became a pupil-teacher at the Midhurst Grammar School and secured a scholarship that allowed him to study with T.H. Huxley, the champion of Darwinism in England. After completing his studies with Huxley, Wells worked in a number of professions including journalism until 1895 when The Time Machine was published.

    From that point on, Wells became a full-time writer. The Island of Dr. Moreau was published in the following year and War of the Worlds two years later. Wells produced a significant corpus of journalistic, philosophical, and political writing as well as fiction.

    Two works in particular, The Discovery of the Future (1902) and Mankind in the Making (1903) caught the attention of George Bernard Shaw and Wells was invited to join the Fabian Society.

    In 1920 Wells wrote an immensely popular historical work, The Outline of History. As evidenced by his involvement in the establishment of the League of Nations, Wells was continually involved with questions of social reform. During the Second World War he created the first draft of what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He died in London on August 13, 1946.
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