The Time Machine: Class Distinction
TheTimeMachine

Introduction

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells written in 1895 was a short novel that conveyed many of the issues in modern day Britain, challenging many perplexing topics. Wells foreshadows a very possible dystopic future for the human race. This evolutionary catastrophe stars the Morlock and the Eloi, two separate types of humans in the future of 802,701 A.D. These humanoids are the descendants of the modern human race, and this society is not what one would predict with our current speed of human advancement. The technology advancement in the present, can be compared to the industrial boom Wells was exposed too, both further separating the distance between the lower and upper-class. I will be comparing this class distinction developed by the Eloi and Morlocks, to modern society and science fiction, as well as Wells’ Victorian time period. This class distinction is prevalent in science fiction books in Well’s time period, also in modern books, movies, and T.V. shows. This common theme serves a prediction of the human race becoming complacent with technology, further losing our skills that are needed for survival, and stunting our progress as a race. It is important to raise awareness of these issues in society, so we as a race can make better decisions to prevent this from happening. I will be using scholarly articles online to outline these similarities, and to better understand why they are presented as they are. This website will showcase these findings and present them in an orderly fashion.

Victorian Era

The Victorian Era, in which Wells was living, was just experiencing the industrial boom; technology and manufacturing both grew exponentially. There arose a distinction between two classes, the white collar folks (upper class) that ran the factories/businesses and mainly delegated work to other people, and the blue collar folks that work the factories for lesser wages but, are often seen as the harder worker. At this time the blue collar folk mainly consisted of children of poor families and the Irish, who were subject to Victorian Racism. The English saw the Irish race as sub-human and were allegedly practicing genocide on them. An author of the time named Charles Kingsley wrote about his trip to Ireland and described the Irish as “human chimpanzees.” (Tuerk, 2005) This was a common portrayal of the Irish, as beast-like or ape-like creatures that were rugged and white. Similar to the description of the Morlocks, pale, white, and ape-like creatures, Wells used the Morlocks to represent popular opinion of that time period. The time traveler deems the Morlocks as the “evil” race that should be stopped, not noticing the similarities he shares with them. The Time Traveler also feeds off of meat, enjoys the thrill of violence, and herds animals to feed from, but he is blinded by the Eloi and their child-like innocence. (Tuerk, 2005) The Eloi are, in this case, the upper-class. They get fed and kind of just mosey aimlessly, all day not accomplishing anything. This is the deterioration of the human intelligence being showcased by Wells, as the Eloi are the humans that become complacent because of the privilege they have, causing them to stunt the advancement of the race and making them vulnerable for control. Morlocks are the lower-class that have been doing factory work, planting food, making clothes, and eventually heard the Eloi like cattle. The Morlocks have not lost their survival skills, and have to use them to stay alive in this dystopic society, so there generations continue to strive in this era. This type of class distinction was common in the Victorian Era; many stories followed the same plot of The Time Machine. Paul Cantor in an article titled “The Empire of the Future: Imperialism and Modernism in H. G. Wells”, Cantor compares Wells novel to a Rider Haggard book calling his main character “a sort of Richard Burton or Henry Stanley of the future.” (Cantor, 2006) The two tribes, Eloi and the Morlock, which are rooted from the Victorian Era’s social division, can be compared to multiple books from this time period. They represent the two tribes that are mainly portrayed when an Englishmen enters an unknown land, that Cantor says “comes right out of the pages of imperialist romance.”(Cantor, 2006) The good tribe (Eloi) and the bad tribe (Morlock), the good tribe being the peaceful, docile, and friendly to the explorer demonstrating goodness and willingness to submit to European rule. The evil tribe represented as being beastly, war-like, and hostile to the explorer often seen attacking the explorer, and killing the good tribe and sometimes eating them. Cantor says “this ache-type in imperialist literature can be traced as far back as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.”(Cantor, 2006) This literature was made popular because it gave ideological justification of the rule of Europeans over non-Europeans.

Modern Society

Meanwhile in America there are the same instances of class distinction and racism; it has been one of the most talked about social issues in our society. This upper and lower class distinction has been prevalent since the slavery Era; in our society one could compare the struggle of racism in the Victorian era, to the battle of racism in our American culture. During the Victorian Era, African-Americans were under extreme discrimination; the war on slavery was just coming to an end, giving freedom to some African-Americans. The free African-Americans were still viewed as sub-human, similar to the Irish under British rule. Regardless of race, the lower-class that is being oppressed is often portrayed in science fiction as the revolting class. In the Time Machine, the Morlocks are considered the lower-class but ironically control the upper-class. So in this dystopic future, the lower-class has already revolted and essentially won; since they were so used to surviving on their own underground, they kept the instincts of survival, making it easy to control the Eloi. This revolution by the lower-class is common throughout history and science fiction. The Civil rights act in America, a clear display of the African-American community coming together to revolt against their oppression in the southern states. The Matrix, Neo and his organization of humans’ revolt against the machine empire that feeds off of the human race: in the Planet of the Apes, the humans revolt against the ape population that discriminate and oppress them; in Elysium, members of the working class revolt to gain access to the health care technologies of the rich on Elysium. Other dystopic examples involve technology and its negative possibilities for our future society. The movie Idiocracy focuses on this notion, on how technology is making us degenerate, and may be the downfall of the human race. In this movie the human race is shown as child-like and idiotic, and un-aware of anything that is going on, complacent and unaware of their current status. Similar to the Eloi, they are both oblivious of the degeneration of their race; both are child-like and are presented as idiotic.

Conclusion

Raising awareness in these issues in society can help prevent the spread of this idiotic nature, and understanding the foreshadowing of modern science fiction can help raise awareness of the degradation of our human race. These two approaches however, are not enough to ensure the human race from these alternative societies; I’m not sure what can be considered “enough” to stop the pending deterioration of the human race. But, what is presented is the warning of these pending dooms, a comparison of history and science fiction, and how they correlate with the science fiction from the Modern, and Victorian time period, and the novel The Time Machine. One can only hope that as a race, we keep intact our motivation to improve and our competition within our society, always propelling society towards advancement and not some dystopic future.

Sources
  • Tuerk, R. (2005). Upper-middle-class madness: H. G. wells' time traveller journeys to wonderland. Extrapolation (Pre-2012),46(4), 517-526,417. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/234922391?accountid=27203
  • Cantor, P. A., & Hufnagel, P. (2006). THE EMPIRE OF THE FUTURE: IMPERIALISM AND MODERNISM IN H. G. WELLS. Studies in the Novel, 38(1), 36-56. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/212628526?accountid=27203