Written by English novelist, historian and science writer H.G Wells (1866“1946) The Time Machine is considered the first works of science fiction literature. Wells uses The Time Machine (published in 1895) as a platform to express his political and social ideas. The story line follows a Victorian Era scientist, known as simply The Time Traveler, who claims to have invented a machine used for time travel. The Time Traveler goes to the year 802,701, to which had once been London. There he finds two futuristic new races; the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi live a childish, weak and carefree life style above ground. Living underground are the Morlocks. However once peaceful labors, now prey on the defenseless Elio. ‘The two races- whose names are borrowed from the biblical Eli and Moloch- symbolize Well’s vision of the eventual result of unchecked capitalism (Marcus).”
Wells sets The Time Machine one million years into the future and uses the Elio and Morlock to demonstrate Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. ‘Natural selection will always tend to preserve all the individuals varying in the right direction (Origin of Species, 96).” Darwin’s theory is used to allow the superior species to grow and develop a functional advantage to thrive. This leaves the inferior, less advantaged species to gradually die out. ‘This is the principle of preservation, or the survival of the fittest, I have called Natural Selection. (Darwin, 157)”
Often, in literature, scientific and mathematical theories are used as frameworks to examine a text, or lenses through which texts can be viewed. This essay will analyze the contextual material of Appendix A: The Evolutionary Context: Biology from the Broadview edition of The Time Machine. We can use this Appendix as a lens to analyze the content of the novel through a scientific perspective. Within the Time Machine, H. G. Wells expresses Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection by creating a Social Darwinism society of specific members of a population having an advantage over another- this being the Morlocks over the Eloi.
Within Appendix A, an extract from the concluding summary of Chapter IV, ‘Natural Selection; or The Survival of the Fittest” from Charles Darwin’s 6th edition of The Origin of Species can be used to analyze Well’s vision for the far-off future. The extract explains Natural Selection in terms of extinction. In The Time Machine, the human race has ‘evolved” into the two new breeds; the Eloi and Morlock. By showing the conversion of humanity to the Eloi/Morlock breed over the time span of 802,701 years, the Darwinian model of natural selection is expressed. The human race has become extinct and evolved into a stronger breed, more adapt to its surroundings. ‘… we have already seen how [Natural Selection] entails extinction; and how largely extinction has acted in the world’s history… (Darwin 157)” The evolution of mankind in The Time Machine is a major plot-setting device. Within the story, we see the struggle of the less evolved being fight for survival against the stronger, more advantaged being. ‘The Morlocks at any rate were carnivorous! Even at the time, I remember wondering what large animal could have survived to furnish the red joint I saw (Wells 116).” The Morlock in the novel are the more advantaged being, this illustrating Darwin’s theory on the stronger creature being more successful, leading the other(s) to extinction.
This extract from Appendix A can be used to connect the theories of diversification in natural selection. This is exhibited in The Time Machine by showing the varying characteristics of the Morlocks and the Eloi. ‘The complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of life, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution and habits to be advantageous to them… (Darwin 157)” The two races in the novel both have very different characteristics. The Morlocks are white, ape-like creatures. Their structure makes them more likely for success versus the Eloi, being small, and childlike. It is easy to see how the variations of the two would favor the Morlocks. Due to the inherited diversity and natural selection, it seems to be that Morlocks would have a greater chance of survival over the Eloi. ‘His flushed face reminded me of the more beautiful consumptive- that hectic beauty of which we used to hear so much (Wells 81)”. The Time Traveler is explaining here how the Eloi have a rather sickly complexation and is reminded of someone who is suffering with tuberculosis. Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the preservation of more successful species to thrive and spread the genetic advantage to their offspring. Through The Time Machine, we see how stronger Morlocks prey on the Eloi to grow and be successful. This is part of the natural order of ‘survival of the fittest”.
According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, degeneration is the progressive deterioration of physical characters from a level representing the norm of earlier generations or forms. In Appendix A of The Time Machine, an extract from Sir Edwin Ray Lankester’s Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism explains how Wells created the world of the Eloi and Morlock with characteristics that body the late-nineteenth-century Darwinian (linguistic decay, moral dependence). This extract explains how there is two types of evolution a species can make; Degeneration and Elaboration, ‘the gradual change in structure to which the organism becomes adapted to more and more varied and complex conditions of existing (Lankester 159) The Eloi and Morlock can be look at as models for both the positive and negative evolution. The Eloi are examples of the degeneration of species, where as the Morlocks can be viewed as the characteristics of elaboration. ‘In Elaboration, there is a new expression of form, corresponding to new perfection of work in the animal machine (Lankester 159)”. The Time Traveler explains in chapter 10 how despite the degeneration of the of Eloi, they still obtained human like qualities. ‘However their great intellectual degradation, the Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to claim my sympathy… (Wells 125)”. He also previously stated how the Morlocks seem to have less human qualities and are more alike to the earliest ancestors three to four thousand years before our time.
H.G Wells has given us as readers the opportunity to more closely analyze his literary artwork of The Time Machine through a scientific lens with the edition of Appendix A: The Evolutionary Context: Biology. This can be used to help better understand how Wells created the world of the Eloi and Morlock. Within the Appendix, the extract from Chapter IV, ‘Natural Selection; or The Survival of the Fittest” from Charles Darwin’s 6th edition of The Origin of Species as well as Sir Edwin Ray Lankester’s extract from Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism can be used to examine Well’s vision for the far-off future. Wells expresses Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection throughout the novel by creating a Social Darwinism society of specific members of a population having an advantage over another. The Eloi and the Morlock are used to mirror this by showing the weaker beings struggle for existence against the stronger and more evolved.
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