The Time Machine

The Time Machine Summary and Analysis of Chapters 3-4

Chapter 3:

The TT (now narrating the story) shows his audience the Time Machine, now in slight disrepair, though it still works. (Description of his journey will be recounted in present tense.) That morning, he uses it and quickly jumps ahead over five hours. He gives it a second run and watches the world around him as the advance of time continues to speed up. After a while, the laboratory disappears--he assumes by destruction--though he remains on the same hill in the open air. He watches trees and buildings rise and fall, and his pace soon rises to over one year for every minute of his existence. He looks forward to seeing more of the developments of civilization he witnesses, such as great buildings and lush environments. Though it is not a problem while he travels at such high speed, he worries about colliding with some substance when he stops.

He finally does stop, and he and the machine are flung through the air and land in a garden during a hail-storm. He sees a huge winged statue of white marble (which he later calls the White Sphinx) in the distance through the hail. After the hail stops, he looks at the statue and worries about what might have befallen mankind. He sees other huge buildings and panics, and when the sky clears he feels vulnerable. As he attempts to readjust the Time Machine, it turns over and strikes him.

Before he mounts the machine, however, his courage returns. The TT notices robed figures in a nearby house who are watching him. Some run toward him, and one approaches him. The creature is small, wears a purple tunic and sandals, and strikes the TT as beautiful but frail. Observing the creature's calm lack of fear, the TT regains his confidence and lets go of the machine.


The TT is portrayed as the consummate Social Darwinist, believing society and mankind will advance in the future, and fearful that the opposite may have occurred. While the future he lands in seems advanced in some ways--there are huge buildings within an exotic environment--the White Sphinx is reminiscent of the sphinx of ancient Egypt. The White Sphinx will play an important role later.

Important in the chapter is the TT's immediate impression of the creatures. While evolution implies that species increasingly adapt to their environments and thus, generally, grow stronger in their complexity, these creatures have simple bodies (which may account for their beauty) which are frail. How exactly they survive with their "unfit" bodies is another mystery in the novel. In fact, this chapter reveals how Wells generally reveals his mysteries--bit by bit. We learn how he receives the cut on his chin visible when he had returned to the past (from the overturned Time Machine), and to appreciate the novel's careful plotting, one must read closely for clues.

It is crucial to note that the TT does not move in space, but only in time. Therefore, we can read the novel as a projection of England's future. Even the momentary hail is somewhat similar to England's dreary climate.

Chapter 4:

The creature comes up to the TT and laughs, then speaks in a "strange tongue" to two other creatures that have followed him. Soon a group assembles, and one addresses the TT. He indicates that he does not understand. The creature touches the TT's hand, and soon the others touch him to verify he is real. The TT is calmed by their childlike gentleness. When they feel the Time Machine, he adjusts the levers to render it inoperable. He observes their fine features more closely, finding in their large eyes a "certain lack of interest." He points to the Time Machine and himself, then to the sun in an attempt to bring up the subject of time. One of the creatures points to the sun and imitates the sound of thunder to ask if the TT came from the thunderstorm. The TT is stunned to think these creatures from the future (802,701, to be exact) could be fools. However, he nods and makes a thunderclap sound. The creatures bestow the TT with countless beautiful flowers and bring him to a huge nearby building. He tries to get a better look at the forested area beyond them filled with tall, spiky white flowers.

The TT is led into a great hall with partially-stained windows and exotic fruits resting on stone slabs. They all sit down on cushions, and invite the TT to devour the fruit with them. He observes the hall some more, and notes that though it is in disrepair, it is still beautiful. The few hundred creatures watch him intently. The TT explains that all the creatures eat is fruit, and he gives a list of animals he later found out became extinct. At first, he explains, he was confused by the strange fruits and flowers, but he later came to understand their significance.

The TT tries to learn the creatures' language, but they soon lose interest in teaching him. He marvels at their laziness and lack of curiosity. He goes outside as the sun sets and is confused by the repositioning of the world--the Thames River has shifted more than a mile. He decides to climb a crest in the distance to get a better look at the area. As he walks past he inspects the ruined landscape, such as the remains of a granite and aluminum structure. He realizes there are no small houses, only huge buildings, and arrives at a conclusion: "'Communism.'" He also realizes that the creatures do not bear distinguishing marks of gender, and that the children are merely smaller versions of their parents. He reasons that this is all understandable in a peaceful, Communist environment where there is no need for survivalist specialization of the sexes. However, he explains he was later to find out that his initial assumptions were very incorrect.

The odd appearance of a well briefly diverts the TT on his walk. He finally reaches the crest and finds a strange corroded yellow metal fashioned into a seat. He sits in it and enjoys the stunning view of the unfenced gardens dotted with the occasional "silvery or white figure" and "cupola or obelisk." He interprets his observations, though he explains that he later found out he had only received a "half-truth." He believes he has happened upon the end of humanity, and that the advances of civilization--in agriculture, medicine, shelter, community, pacifism, and so on--logically enfeeble its inhabitants, since hardship forces humans to use their intelligence for survival. He also believes their population checks have possibly been too effective, accounting for the abandoned ruins. However, he explains, his explanation was "simple" and "plausible--as most wrong theories are!"


The TT has a scientific mind that forms hypotheses on the basis of sound observation--although, as he frequently admits, his hypotheses in this early stage will all prove to be wrong. His theories rest on his two major observations: that the creatures he encounters are weak and lazy, and that their civilization seems to be an advanced Communist state. However, he hints that his theory about Communism would prove to be wrong.

Therefore, what we can extrapolate from his theories is an argument against evolution as the ultimate end, a goal of perfection, since the TT observes that life does not naturally adapt to stronger and more complex states. Rather, he perceives a blend of evolution and entropy in the world of 802,701 (see the analysis of Chapter I for explanations of these two theories); while civilization has evolved into some sort of perfection, it has outstripped the progress of its inhabitants. Within these increasingly self-sufficient civilizations, the inhabitants weaken, their energy dissipated through entropy: "Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless energyŠwould become weakness." There is no longer "survival of the fittest" for, as the TT points out, "what we should call the weak are as well equipped as the strong." However, it remains unclear so far what these creatures represent in Wells's time.

There is more foreshadowing of a mystery revolving around why the creatures eat only fruit. When Wells introduces odd features in the landscape, such as the well that diverts the TT, it should also give the reader pause. Finally, the TT explains he has only seen a "half-truth" in the environment so far; what this other half is will be essential to unlocking the various mysteries so far.