Jonathan Katz

April 10, 2003

Biology in The Time Machine

        H.G Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine, serves as a striking look into the hotly debated scientific issues of his contemporary time period.  Even the most obvious clue into the novel’s events— the book’s title—and our main character’s medium for which he is ultimately able to experience a completely foreign world, reflects the period of the Second Industrial Revolution in which the book was written.  In a time in which previously unthinkable advances in technology were soon becoming a reality, it is fitting that Wells chose a technology so unattainable and alluring for humans as his medium through which he could articulate his wide-ranging views on science.  Among the many scientific regions to which the novel alludes, no area is as powerful as the biological questions raised, for it does seem that this is the discipline that covers what Wells is really trying to tell us: his views on humanity.  While Wells shows deep faith in Darwin’s biology and ideas of evolution, he contrasts this with a strong disbelief in Social Darwinism, and the assumption that evolution necessarily means progress.

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        In the novel, the nameless Time Traveler rides in a time machine to the year 802,700, only to find that this world deep into the future looks nothing like the world he once knew.  While this world is completely alien to him and to the reader, it does resemble contemporary views of the Time Traveler’s old world, aspects of biological processes that Darwin hypothesized.  After viewing both an ‘upper-world’ of small, unintimidating beings and then a completely different nocturnal ape-like creature below, the Time Traveler realizes that both are descendants of humans.  “…Gradually, the truth dawned on me:” the Traveler ...

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