H. G. Wells was a crusader of his time, with a leaning toward socialism and social equality. With this tidbit of information, it's interesting to see how The Time Machine was both a hope of utopia and a picture of a seemingly inevitable dystopia.
Our time traveler is an amateur scientist who tells an amazing tale to his friends, weekly gatherers at his home for dinner and discussion. He makes a claim to have visited a distant future (in the film, at least, the year 803702 is listed; I've not a copy nearby to check that date). In this time, our time traveler discovers a world split into halves -- the Eloi (elite?) who live in the daylight, carefree, indolent, tame and unthinking as sheep... and the Morlocks, who live underground, and who work all their lives in darkness, keeping the machinery (literal and metaphorical) of the world running, so that the Eloi may have their pleasure. The catch is that the Morlocks have become a base, cannibalistic race, feeding upon the "sheep" above ground.
Our time traveler is repulsed by this, ultimately trying to teach the Eloi to fight back, perhaps to no avail. Traveling further into the future, the traveler discovers, ultimately, what scientists of modern day refer to as "the heat death of the universe" in one of its penultimate phases, and his despair is complete. He returns to his time (as the 19th century becomes the 20th) and tells his impossible tale, with nothing to prove himself beyond a single flower brought back from the time of the Eloi... and the memory of the single hope that mankind, whatever its ultimate fate, might still retain some semblance of its sense of kindness toward others.
Wells' time was one of newly emerging social equality, yet with it was a sense of ever-tightening reins of economic, political, and class inequality. The closest thing to socialism that Wells would see in his day was the perversion of the Bolshevik revolution under the crushing tyranny of Stalin. Wells, who died only a year after the end of the second World War and shortly before his 80th birthday, explored many ideas of how to bring out the best in mankind, often finding that most men fell short of the mark. Just as Mark Twain noted, "If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat," Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau explores the idea of improving man by crossing them with animals... and sadly, all species lost the bet.
In a contradictory way, Wells envisioned dystopia from a Utopian aspect: Mankind as a species may be doomed, but some few of the species may yet find a way to keep the species from dying out altogether. With all the contradictory, clashing, cataclysmic flaws that Man both has and exploits in others of his kind, there is still in the deepest place within a desire to become more, to outgrow the baser self, and to create a Better World. In the 2002 film version of The Time Machine, written and directed by Wells' own grandson Simon Wells, a slightly different ending shows our time traveler staying in a future where the Morlocks are destroyed, and the Eloi, not so sheep-like, go on to build their better world after all. This, perhaps, is an ending that H. G. Wells might have applauded -- a future of hope for a 19th century time traveler.
What did you think of this review?