The Time Traveler is the protagonist of the story, and he takes over the narration from Chapter III until Chapter XII. He is a scientific man, schooled in contemporary theories about relativity and an able practitioner of the scientific method of hypothesis, observation, experimentation, and conclusion (although he freely admits that many of his early theories about the future world turn out to be wrong). He also begins his time traveling as an optimistic Social Darwinist, believing civilization will continually advance, but he quickly reverses his thoughts once he observes the Eloi and the Morlocks. His only friend in the future is Weena, with whom he has something of a romantic relationship. Her death at the hands of the Morlocks stokes the TT's deep loathing of the ape-like creatures--a hatred which most likely stems from the TT's Victorian aversion to the lower classes. Interestingly, he despises the Morlocks even though he understands, in Marxist terminology, that they have been victimized as the working class for so long. Another great irony of the novel is that the TT, in his adventures in the future world, becomes primal; he savagely beats the Morlocks with blunt instruments or his fists, and he must use primitive skills--such as lighting fires--to defeat them.
The only member of the Eloi the Time Traveler gets to know, Weena exhibits all the good and bad characteristics of this future race. The Eloi are evolved members of the upper class, but they are not more advanced beings, as Social Darwinists would believe. Rather, their utopian civilization has made them weak, physically and mentally; they are beautiful but lazy, frail, and stupid creatures who can do nothing for themselves. The Morlocks, the evolved, nocturnal, Underworld members of the working class, are now the true masters; they breed the Eloi like cattle for food and stalk them at night. Weena follows the TT around like a puppy after he saves her from drowning, and it is through her behavior--especially her fear of the dark--that the TT figures out much about the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks. She even develops a quasi-romantic relationship with the TT, and her death incites the TT's vicious stand against the Morlocks.
The antagonists in the novel, the ape-like Morlocks are the evolved members of the working class. Over the years, the Time Traveler theorizes, the working class has been continually pushed underground, and after a while it has evolved into a distinct species apart from the ruling class. Nocturnal and adept at climbing, the Morlocks have turned the tables and rule over their fairer Upperworld cousins, the Eloi, breeding them for food while they keep their society humming. They immediately spark the TT's loathing, most likely because he, a member of the Victorian upper class, has an ingrained disgust for the working class, though he comprehends their history as a Marxist class revolution.
The narrator is a fairly unobtrusive character, especially since he steps out of the story from Chapter III to Chapter XII. However, he is the one member of the Time Traveler's dinner group who does not immediately discard the story of the future. By the novel's end he not only believes the TT's dystopian tale, but is willing to overlook the harsh prophecy of the future and embrace the present--and perhaps change the future in the process. In this sense, Wells uses the narrator as a stand-in for his reader; he warns us what will become if we do not change, and then implores us to change, as the narrator seems to do.
The Dinner Guests
Though they all basically function as one character, the Medicine Man and the Psychologist stand out among the Time Traveler's dinner guests in their scientific appraisals (and critiques) of his time-travel theories. They also are reminders of Victorian luxury, able to gather for a leisurely evening of discussion. Their skepticism of the TT's story seems to rest less on the implausibility of a Time Machine, and more on the TT's vision of the class-divided future. The dinner guests ignore that they are on their way to becoming the dependent Eloi and that the working class around them is turning into the Morlocks. Wells uses them as a counterpoint to the narrator, with whom we instantly side; we should follow the idealistic narrator in his desire to change the present for the benefit of the future, rather than the cynical dinner guests who complacently go about their present business.
The Time Machine Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Time Machine is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
There were, perhaps, a couple of hundred people dining in the hall, and most of them, seated as near to me as they could come, were watching me with interest, their little eyes shining over the fruit they were eating.