Summary of The Time Machine

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The Time Machine book summary

Literary Classic

  • Science fiction
  • Victorian literature

What It’s About

Humanity’s Dark Fate

There’s no denying that The Time Machine is an extraordinary work of imagination. More than 100 years after its initial publication in 1895, H.G. Wells’s tale of a nameless scientist who builds a time machine, travels to the year 802,701 AD and there encounters humanity’s descendants – the childlike Eloi and the monstrous Morlocks – continues to engage readers and inspire fellow science fiction authors. Still, The Time Machine is hardly light entertainment. In many ways a response to the popular utopian fiction of the period, Wells handily inverts a core belief of his day – namely, that scientific and technological progress would, inevitably, lead to a better tomorrow. Indeed, the novel’s decidedly pessimistic speculation about the ways humanity may evolve if it fails to face the most pressing social problems of the era – particularly, the exploitation of the working classes – offers a profound indictment of unchecked capitalism and the class divisions that roiled late 19th-century Victorian society.

Take-Aways

  • H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine offers a dystopian vision of humanity’s future.
  • A scientist builds a time machine and travels to future. He finds that humanity has devolved into two races: the childlike Eloi and the monstrous Morlocks. His machine disappears, so he explores the future world. After narrowly escaping capture by the Morlocks, the Time Traveller recovers his machine and journeys further forward to the world’s end before returning to his own time. Soon after, he embarks on another trip, never to return again.
  • Wells studied under Thomas Henry Huxley – an advocate for Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  • During World War II, Wells drafted “The Rights of Man,” which later influenced the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Violent clashes between factory workers and owners defined late 19th-century Britain in many ways.
  • Wells’s support for democratic socialism was predicated on his belief that class divisions were incompatible with scientific advancement.
  • Wells’s Time Traveller character follows the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation.
  • In and of themselves, technological innovations, the novel argues, won’t prevent societal degeneration.
  • The Time Machine is a dystopian science fiction tale: The author imagines a dark rather than utopian future for society and grounds those ideas in scientific principles and theories.
  • “Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”

Summary

Experiments in the Fourth Dimension

The Time Traveller sits with his friends, including the unnamed narrator, discussing the nature of time as the fourth dimension. He believes people should be capable of moving around in time as they do in the other dimensions; indeed, the Time Traveller says he now has, via experimentation, proven that a man can travel back and forth in time. When his friends demand to see the experiment, the Time Traveller goes to his laboratory and returns with a miniature machine. He points to two levers on the machine, explaining that one sends the device into the future while the other sends it into the past. The Time Traveller asks one of his guests to press one of the levers, and the machine vanishes amid a small gust of wind. The machine, the Time Traveller explains, is now headed into the future – but so fast that the members of the group can’t perceive it. He then leads his guests into his laboratory, where he shows them a full-size version of the machine.

Though the guests feel sure the Time Traveller is playing some kind of trick on them, the man insists he is deadly serious. He plans to use the machine to explore time. One week later, the narrator returns to the Time Traveller’s house for dinner. Some of the guests from the previous meeting are present, as well as some new faces. They find a note saying to go ahead and start dinner; the Time Traveller will explain when he returns. The group is in the middle of their meal when the door to the dining room opens and the Time Traveller appears. He is in a shocking state: dirty, pale and limping. The Time Traveller gulps down some champagne then goes to clean himself up. While he is gone, the guests speculate on what he’s been doing. The narrator remarks that it probably has something to do with the time machine. The Time Traveller returns, begins to eat and, when pressed, confirms he has indeed been traveling in time – but that he won’t say more until he is done with dinner. After dinner, in the smoking room, the Time Traveller states he will tell the group what happened, but only if everyone agrees not to interrupt the story. The guests agree, and the Time Traveller begins his tale.

The Adventure Begins

As soon as his machine was ready – as it was at 10 o’clock that morning – the Time Traveller sat inside and pushed the start lever forward and then almost immediately pulled the stop lever. Looking at his laboratory clock, he was amazed to see five hours had elapsed. Again, he pressed the start lever. The laboratory became indistinct as the Time Traveller moved into the future. He felt dizzy as nights and days passed swiftly. Soon the lab itself disappeared and the Time Traveller found himself outdoors. Buildings rose and fell. The Time Traveller’s mood transformed to one of heedless elation. As the years passed, however, his fear began to grow. For a moment, the Time Traveller became certain he would never be able to stop, so he decided he must stop immediately. He yanked the stopping lever and was abruptly flung off the machine.

“I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair – and pass like dreams.” (The Time Traveller)

The Time Traveller found himself in a garden in the middle of a storm. He noticed a white stone statue of a sphinx on a bronze pedestal and began to worry anew about what sort of world he would discover: What if people had become savage and inhuman? Feeling a new stab of fear, the Time Traveller rushed to his fallen time machine and, as the rain had stopped, turned it upright once more. Suddenly, he saw a group of robed figures. One of them, a beautiful, delicate creature, roughly four feet tall, approached him. Others followed. They spoke to the Time Traveller in a lovely language that he didn’t understand. The beings didn’t seem to fear him at all.

Feeling more secure, the Time Traveller removed the control levers from his machine, rendering it inoperable. He attempted to explain where he came from. He pointed to the sun, and one of the creatures, noticing, made a noise like the sound of thunder. The Time Traveller realized, to his dismay, that the creature thought he came from the storm. He wondered if, perhaps, the little people were fools. He had always expected future generations to be far advanced; this group seemed to suggest otherwise.

“Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”

The creatures covered the Time Traveller in flowers and led him to a lovely, though worn, building. Inside, he ate the strange fruit the creatures gave him and tried to learn their language. They found his questions amusing at first but soon grew tired of teaching him. After eating, the Time Traveller went back outside to explore the world of 802,701 AD.

Humanity’s Decline

The Time Traveller saw a number of ruins and noted that the only standing structures appeared to be large, castle-like buildings; there were no single-family homes. He thought of communism. Looking at the group of creatures following him, he noticed there seemed to be no difference between male and female, and no signs of age or disease. Everyone wore the same style of clothing. He considered how these things might make sense. Without hardship or danger, humanity no longer needed male strength or female gentleness; it no longer required intelligence or ingenuity or passion. Cooperation would rule, and toil would end. And, eventually, having achieved these heights, society would begin its slow decline – as these mindless, yet lovely, creatures showed. However – the Time Traveller explains to his listeners in the present – these initial theories would ultimately prove incorrect.

Back in the future, night began to fall and the Time Traveller walked back toward his time machine. As he drew nearer, he saw it wasn’t where he had left it. He knew no one could have moved the machine in time – he still had the levers in his pocket – so the little people must have hidden it somewhere. As he ran around the grounds, he startled a white creature that ran away into the night. He returned to the hall where he had eaten earlier and, waking the creatures he found sleeping there, demanded to know the location of his machine. They merely looked at him, confused and afraid. At last, he returned to the White Sphinx statue and, after much weeping and cursing, fell asleep on the ground.

“Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness.” (The Time Traveller)

The next morning, the Time Traveller’s rationality returned. Examining the grass closely, he saw drag marks and concluded that someone had placed the time machine inside the statue’s bronze pedestal. When he tried to ask the creatures how to open the pedestal, they reacted with a mixture of surprise and disgust. Seeing no way to open the pedestal himself, the Time Traveller decided he must be patient. He resolved himself to get to know the creatures better and to explore the world more thoroughly.

More Mysteries

As the Time Traveller walked about, he noticed not just the natural beauty of the place, but the many wells that appeared to dot the landscape. From within, he thought he heard machine-like sounds and noted the wells appeared to be sucking air down into the Earth. He concluded they must be a kind of ventilation system – but for what purpose? Other questions presented themselves: If the little creatures didn’t work, where did their clothes and shoes come from?

Later that day, the Time Traveller saved one of the creatures from drowning in the river. Her name was Weena. After the rescue, Weena became devoted to the Time Traveller, following him everywhere. She was afraid of the dark like the others of her kind. This is why they all slept together, in one room, in the great buildings. One morning, the Time Traveller woke before sunrise. Looking out over the land, he saw ghostly figures moving around. On his fourth morning, the Time Traveller took refuge from the sun in one of the ruins. Inside, he found himself face to face with one of the pale figures. He was able to note its gray-red eyes and long blonde hair as the ape-like creature fled. The Time Traveller tried to follow, but it disappeared down one of the strange wells.

“We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existence, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the time-dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.” (The Time Traveller)

Pondering this new mystery, the Time Traveller deduced that society had divided itself into two species: one which lived above the ground and one which lived below. He then theorized that the underground race was the final result of the widening gap between capital and labor, which had already made itself known in his own time. The underground creatures – known as the Morlocks – were the laborers, he reasoned, who the rich must have forced underground at some point in history. They would have had no choice but to keep working for the Overlanders, or else they risked starvation or suffocation. In short, the ease of Weena and her people – called the Eloi – was not the result of  society’s triumph over nature alone, but also the triumph of one class of society over another. But why had the Morlocks taken the time machine? And why, if the Eloi were the ruling class, were they so afraid of nightfall – when the Morlocks emerged?

The more he considered the situation, the more certain the Time Traveller became that recovering his time machine hinged on venturing into the world of the Morlocks. He feared taking this step. One day, as he was walking, he noticed a building which he dubbed the Palace of Green Porcelain. Though he wanted to visit it, he decided he must first go down into one of the wells. The Time Traveller kissed Weena good-bye and began to descend despite her protests. He climbed down until he had thoroughly exhausted himself.

Into Darkness

Finding a small ledge where he could pause, the Time Traveller rested. Suddenly, he felt clammy hands touching him. Lighting a match, the Time Traveller saw a number of Morlocks running away down a tunnel. He followed them to a massive chamber where he saw a table with a large piece of some kind of meat sitting on it. The Morlocks themselves lurked on the edges of the light that the Time Traveller’s match cast. All at once, he realized he only had four matches remaining. And each time a fire died out, the Morlocks grabbed at him. He began to go back the way he had come. He had almost completed his escape when the last of his matches went out. The Morlocks attempted to seize him, but he managed to scramble up the shaft unharmed. In light of his excursion below, the Time Traveller revised his earlier opinion that the Eloi ruled the Morlocks. Maybe once they did, but now – though the Morlocks still made garments for the Eloi – the Eloi were clearly no longer in charge. Thinking again about the Palace of Green Porcelain, the Time Traveller wondered if it might be the safest place to spend the night. Carrying Weena on his shoulder, he began to walk toward it. At one point during the journey, Weena climbed down and walked beside him, picking flowers and putting them into his pockets. In the present time, the Time Traveller pauses in his story to his dinner guests, reaches into his pocket and produces two blooms – which he places on the table in front of his guests.

The Palace of Green Porcelain

Back again in the future, the trip took far longer than planned and, as night fell, Weena and the Time Traveller found themselves on the edge of a forest. Afraid to venture inside without light, the Time Traveller let Weena sleep while he kept watch. In the middle of the night, it suddenly came to him, with horror, that the meat the Morlocks were eating was probably Eloi. The next morning, he and Weena continued walking. Once inside the Palace of Green Porcelain, the Time Traveller realized it must have been a museum. Moving through the various exhibits, he found a hall filled with machinery. Suddenly, Weena drew close to him, and the Time Traveller sensed Morlocks at the far end of the dark hall. Turning to one of the machines, he broke off a large lever to use as a weapon. He and Weena then made their retreat. Moving through a crumbling library, the Time Traveller briefly mused on the time wasted in writing all those books. He found some camphor – a highly flammable substance – and a box of matches encased in glass. He smashed the glass and took the two items. As the daylight waned, the Time Traveller decided that, rather than stay at the museum, he ought to head back toward the time machine. Armed with his iron bar, he might have a chance at breaking into the pedestal.

Two Narrow Escapes

The Time Traveller and Weena began walking, but as they approached the woods, they heard the Morlocks behind them. Using the camphor and some dry brush, the Time Traveller started a fire to protect their backs as he and Weena made their way through the forest. They walked quickly but soon found themselves surrounded by Morlocks. The Time Traveller put Weena down for a moment to retrieve a match from his pocket and start another fire. She fainted, and the Time Traveller carried her again to another spot. He realized that he had lost his sense of direction, so he decided to make camp. Sitting by the fire, the Time Traveller fell asleep.

“Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life.” (The Time Traveller)

He awoke to find the Morlocks grabbing at him. He attacked them with his steel bar and killed some. To his confusion, the rest ran away. The Time Traveller realized that his first fire had become a raging inferno. He searched for Weena but couldn’t find her anywhere. He ran after the Morlocks, hoping they would lead him out of the forest. At last, he emerged onto a hillside. The Morlocks he found there were blinded by the heat and light, rendering them helpless. When morning came and after a final, futile search for Weena, he continued his journey back to the statue.

When he arrived, he was shocked to see the pedestal was open. Inside, the Time Traveller saw his machine. Though he realized this was probably a Morlock trap, he nevertheless went inside. As he guessed they would, the pedestal panels closed behind him. He pulled out a match to ward off the monsters but realized he had lost the box and the matches wouldn’t strike against anything else. The Morlocks attacked, but the Time Traveller managed to get inside his machine, attach the forward lever and push it forward.

End Times

The Time Traveller hurtled even further into the future. Thousands of years flew past. The Time Traveller noticed, however, that the shift from night to day appeared to be happening more slowly. He saw the sun grow larger and redder. At last, the Earth seemed to stop turning altogether. The Time Traveller brought the time machine to a halt.

“There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of space, and a fourth – time.” (The Time Traveller)

In the twilight of the dying sun, the Time Traveller looked at the strange landscape surrounding the beach he had landed upon. The Earth was covered in lush greenery. The air was thin. In the distance, he saw something that looked like a giant white butterfly. A clump of what he thought was red rock began to crawl toward him. It was a massive crab-like creature. While the Time Traveller stared, another crab creature approached from behind and brushed the back of his neck. He quickly pushed the lever forward and jumped a month further into the future. But now he saw dozens of the crab creatures on the beach. Horrified, the Time Traveller moved another hundred years ahead. Little had changed.

He continued on, stopping every thousand years or so to see Earth’s decay before finally stopping 30 million years in the future. The air was bitterly cold and the sun took up a giant portion of the sky. There seemed to be nothing alive except for moss. Snow began to fall and another planet – Mercury, he guessed – began to eclipse the sun. The sky turned black; then, slowly, the eclipse waned. Nauseous and on the verge of collapse, the Time Traveller saw a round black creature splashing in the red ocean toward him. He climbed back onto his machine and started to head back in time.

A Brief Return

After a while, the Time Traveller found he was able to breathe easily once again. He began to see the dim outline of houses and, as he slowed the machine, he recognized the landscape once more. Finally, he found himself back within the walls of his laboratory. He stopped the machine, checked the date and, hearing his guests at dinner, went in to join them. His tale complete, the Time Traveller acknowledges that he doesn’t expect the guests to believe his story. They can, he states, take it as mere speculation if they wish. Indeed, he can hardly believe himself. Staring at the flowers on the table, the Time Traveller wonders aloud if it was all a dream – or madness. Leaping to his feet, he runs back to his laboratory to see the machine. There it sat, covered in dirt and grass. The guests leave, discussing what they have heard.

“I cannot expect you to believe it. Take it as a lie – or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest.” (The Time Traveller)

The narrator can hardly sleep that night and, the next day, rushes back to the Time Traveller’s house. He finds the Time Traveller in his lab, preparing to leave on another time-traveling trip. The Time Traveller asks the narrator to wait, telling him he will be back in half an hour – and this time, he will bring back proof of his adventure.

The narrator notes that, as of the telling of this story, three years have elapsed since the Time Traveller left. He wonders if the Time Traveller has perished or if he’s still wandering in time. In any case, thinking about humanity’s future fate continues to depress the narrator. The only comfort he has remains in Weena’s two faded flowers – proof that even when all else good and admirable has fallen away from society, tenderness will remain.

About the Text

Structure and Style

The Time Machine is a dystopian science fiction tale. H.G. Wells imagined a dark future for society and grounded his ideas in scientific principles and theories. The novel features a framing device wherein an unnamed narrator in the present day (mid-1890s) sets the stage for the main story (set largely in the distant future), which the Time Traveller himself tells. Both narrators provide a first-person perspective on events. The reader never sees or knows more than the men themselves and thus are partners in their respective journeys. At the same time, the reader relationship with each of narrators differs. The unnamed narrator provides perspective on the Time Traveller, encouraging readers to see the man as honest and believable – when he might otherwise come across as mad. In so doing, the narrator lends weight to the Time Traveller’s story.

The two narrators share a similar storytelling style and tone. Both strive for objectivity when describing scenes, events and characters, but at regular intervals, both give way to emotion or sentiment – confessing feelings of fear, confusion, disgust and excitement. The first part of the novel introduces the unnamed narrator and the Time Traveller. The latter lays out the theories backing his creation of a “time machine” – a term Wells coined – and later claims to have actually taken a trip through time. The second part of the novel focuses on the Time Traveller’s narration of his adventures among the beautiful Eloi and monstrous Morlocks in the distant future (802,701 AD). Over the course of the story, what initially seems like a utopian age reveals itself as quite the opposite. In the final part of the novel, the Time Traveller tells of traveling still further forward in time until he reaches the end of Earth’s existence, and the unnamed narrator relates what happens after the Time Traveller’s return to his own era.

Interpretation

  • In keeping with the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation, the Time Traveller notes when his first impressions – and the theories he derives from those observations – prove incorrect.
  • The Palace of Green Porcelain raises the question of what sorts of human achievements truly matter. As the crumbling artifacts underscore, the things humanity focused their intellect upon in centuries past were useless in preventing society’s decline (and in fact, may have precipitated it). Perhaps if greater attention were paid to solving social problems, human beings wouldn’t have devolved into the foolish Eloi and monstrous Morlocks.
  • Wells believed that suspension of disbelief was of vital importance in speculative fiction. To that end, he roots the notion of time travel in scientific theory, gives the Time Traveller realistic emotions (including irrationality) and frames his extraordinary adventure with a real-world setting – comprising, as Wells put it, “all that I could imagine of solid upper-class comforts.”
  • The Time Traveller’s decision to save Weena from drowning and his appreciation of her companionship afterward offer a counterpoint to the image of the scientist as purely objective and unemotional. Weena can’t help the Time Traveller recover his time machine or protect him from the Morlocks (his two primary concerns); all she can do is assuage his loneliness.
  • Though the novel offers a clear indictment of working-class exploitation, its focus on the upper classes (both in the framing story and the Time Traveller’s narrative) indicates that Wells’s message is aimed, primarily, at upper-class readers. It is they who must change their ways lest they doom humanity to a future even more violent and divided than the present. 
  • As a force alternately portrayed as useful or dangerous in the tale, fire symbolizes Wells’s view of technology. As the Industrial Revolution showed, such advancements have the capacity to improve  human lives, but they can also dull people’s wits and serve as a tool of oppression. 
  • Weena’s flowers act as proof of the veracity of the Time Traveller’s tale, as a representation of the Eloi themselves (beautiful but weak) and, for the unnamed narrator, as a symbol of the gratitude and tenderness that society will retain when all else good about humanity passes away.
  • The statue of the White Sphinx – based on a mythical creature which posed riddles and consumed those who failed to answer correctly – represents both the Time Traveller’s approach to the future world (as a puzzle that requires solving) and the core issue at the novel’s heart: how to solve the labor problem before it “devours” society.

Historical Background

An Era of Class Conflict

The end of the 19th century in Britain was a time of great technological development and socioeconomic upheaval. New industries bred mass manufacturing and consumption of goods. The Irish pressed for independence from England. Women agitated for the right to vote. Workers formed trade unions to fight against too-long hours, poor pay and dangerous employment conditions. Indeed, the so-called labor question with its sometimes violent clashes between factory workers and owners defined the era in many ways. While a number of laws passed during the early and middle parts of the 19th century improved working conditions somewhat – especially for women and children – social and economic divisions remained stark. Some within the middle and upper classes believed in the necessity of further reforms to help laborers continue to improve their circumstances. Others, however, persisted in viewing the working classes in purely Darwinesque terms – that is, seeing their ignorance and poverty as a manifestation of their inherent degradation. 

Class conflicts also coincided with evolving theories about society’s relationship with both science and politics. For much of the 19th century, British culture and governance remained highly regionalized. By the century’s end, the nationalization of British life and politics was well underway. While most middle-class Britons continued to value the notion of individual responsibility and self-reliance, increased centralization helped engender a stronger belief in poverty relief as a national responsibility rather than a matter of personal conscience. A number of socialist organizations formed during this period, which likewise envisioned new relationships between society and the state. In many ways arguments in favor of equal opportunity for all British citizens, regardless of class, laid the groundwork for the emerging British welfare state. In literature, the question of how class conflicts would resolve themselves was a popular one. Utopian stories such as Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) – wherein a man wakes from a hypnotic sleep in the year 2000 to discover America has become a socialist utopia, utterly free of class-based issues – and William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890) – which depicts a future where all work has become pleasurable – were popular in the late 19th century. Dystopian works like The Time Machine – which posit degeneration, rather than continued, positive evolution as mankind’s future state – were a response to the utopian fiction trend.

Development

The earliest inspiration for Wells’s notion of the above-versus-below-ground divide between the classes which would occupy a central place in The Time Machine came from the author’s own childhood. During the period when Wells’s father owned a shop, the family passed much of their free time in an underground basement space. Too, at the main house of the country estate, Uppark, where Wells’s mother worked as a ladies maid, Wells became familiar with the underground tunnels and living quarters where the staff passed their days. Later, when Wells became a draper’s apprentice, he himself spent long hours laboring in poorly ventilated interior spaces. Likewise, these early experiences directed Wells’s developing socialist ideas – another core aspect of The Time Machine. In his Experiment in Autobiography (1934), Wells notes that his support for democratic socialism was predicated on his belief that the “existing political and social structures” were fundamentally “incompatible” with “scientific and industrial progress.” Modern science, Wells reasoned, pointed to the possibility of a “great world order” that stood in direct opposition to late-Victorian class barriers. Should the class divides persist, thwarting the possibility of true, meritocratic competition, the outcome would be dire. Innovation wouldn’t stop, but rather than working to bring all people together, its effects on society would be perverse. 

Literarily, it is probable that Wells drew inspiration from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) as well as more contemporary utopian works. Wells began playing with the idea of time travel a number of years before writing The Time Machine. His short story, “The Chronic Argonauts” which – like The Time Machine – focused on an inventor who builds a time machine, was published in the Royal College of Science student magazine, The Science Schools Journal in 1888. Wells debated using aspects of this earlier tale as the basis for a series of articles the Pall Mall Gazette but was convinced by the Gazette’s publisher to write a serial novel instead. The novel appeared in serial form between January and May 1895 in The New Review and was published in book form by two separate publishers (Henry Holt & Company and Heinemann) in late May. Some of the eleventh chapter of the serial – which Wells wrote merely to make his editor happy – wasn’t included in the book version of The Time Machine. Today, the Heinemann text is generally considered the definitive version of Wells’s text.

Reviews and Legacy

The Time Machine was generally well-received upon its publication. Writing for The Review, W.T. Stead praised Wells as a “man of genius” with “an imagination as gruesome as Edgar Allan Poe.” For its part, the July 1895 issue of Nature argued that “apart from its merits as a clever piece of imagination, the story is well worth the attention of the scientific reader.” In both Britain and the United States, The Time Machine inspired scores of science fiction writers, including Olaf Stapledon, J.D. Beresford, S. Fowler Wright, Naomi Mitchison, Stephen Baxter, Christopher Priest, Adam Roberts, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and Ursula K. Le Guin. The story also influenced the work of British scientist J.B.S. Haldane, who wrote essays and gave lectures on the subject of the possible future of human evolution and life on other planets. However, The Time Machine didn’t receive much scholarly attention before the early 1960s; since then, Wells’s novel has occupied a core place in studies of utopias and dystopias and has established itself as an important part of the science fiction canon.

The Time Machine has been adapted numerous times, in a variety of media over the years. CBS adapted the story twice for radio – first in 1948 and again in 1950. A BBC radio dramatization of the novel was broadcast in 2009. Marvel Comics produced a comic version of the novel in 1976, and Eternity Comics published a three-issue adaptation that later became a paperback graphic novel in 1990. The Time Machine first became a feature film in 1960, starring Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Yvette Mimieux. While the film received mixed reviews, it won a Best Effects Oscar for its time-lapse photographic techniques. A 2002 remake starring Guy Pierce and Jeremy Irons reset the story in New York, added a number of convoluted plot points not present in the novel and received mostly negative reviews.

About the Author

H.G. Wells (Herbert George Wells) was born in Kent, England, on September 21, 1866. The fourth child of shopkeeper and professional cricket player Joseph Wells and his wife, Sarah Neal, young Wells became a voracious reader at age seven, when an accident left him confined to his bed for several months. When an injury left Joseph unable to continue as a cricketer, Wells was apprenticed to a draper, where he worked 13 hours a day. His mother became a maid at Uppark — a country estate, where her son had access to its extensive library. There, he read the works of Plato, Voltaire, Swift and Daniel Defoe. In 1883, Wells became a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School. The next year, he won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, where he studied biology under Thomas Henry Huxley – an advocate of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. While at school, Wells became a member of the pro-socialism Fabian Society, though he later criticized the group for not being radical enough in its aims. He also wrote for The Science School Journal and published a short story about time travel titled “The Chronic Argonauts.” In 1891, Wells married his cousin, Isabel Mary Wells. The pair separated in 1894, when Wells fell in love with Amy Catherine Robbins. Over the years, he engaged in affairs with a number of prominent women. He fathered a daughter, Anna-Jane, with writer Amber Reeves and a son, Anthony West, with novelist and feminist Rebecca West. In 1895, Wells published his first novel, The Time Machine, closely followed by The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898). These works established Wells’s fame as an author. In addition to fiction, the highly prolific Wells wrote essays, book reviews and several best-selling nonfiction works, including Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1901) and The Outline of History (1920). During World War II, he drafted “The Rights of Man,” which later became influential in the United Nations’ development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Wells died in London of unspecified causes on August 13, 1946, at the age of 79.


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