Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Time and Its Power Over Society

When we really think about the concept of time, it seems like something intended to unify the world as a global community. As discussed in “Time Goes Standard”, the standardizing of time made things like conducting business outside of one’s town and creating a train that spanned the distance of many miles possible. Time gives structure and order to a society consisting of many individuals having varying ideas. It is the one thing that ties as together as a community/society. In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, this notion of time representing order and structure is displayed throughout the text.

When the Time Traveller initially showed his companions the model version of his time machine, “the little machine suddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen as a ghost for a second…” as it disappeared into either the past or the future. (Wells 8) This machine is supposed to represent time. As it propels itself into a different space, it loses its shape and distinct look. The imagery painted is one that is slowly blending into the background. As the time machine model is losing its place in time, and defying all the laws that we know about time, it is losing itself. Could it be that the time we decided to standardize has become a comment on who we are as a society?

In the novel, none of the characters have specific names. They are all referred to by their occupation. At first, this seemed like a strange method of character development. But in a sense, the lack of names is quite fitting in the idea of time as a lasting structure that sets the standards in society. The characters are all human. They will live there lives, but then they will eventually die. Humans are not lasting. Time is lasting. Everything that is fleeting in the book is described with less detail than the elements considered permanent. For example, when the narrator is describing the point when the Time Traveller travels through time, the description is very brief and a bit dizzying. The narrator describes the laboratory growing “faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and faster still.” (16) When the narrator describes something like the moon of the flowers or just nature in general, however, extra care is given to the description of its appearance and its location in relation to the Time Traveller. Perhaps the argument lies in the mentality that nature is eternal and lasting, while civilization can only last as long as we are allowed to by nature and time.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Nina said...

The point that you touched on about character names was also on my mind as well when I was reading the novel. However, I don't think necessarily that the characters are not named because of their transitory nature, rather, they are referred to by their profession/rank - a theme that becomes more and more frightening as the book goes on. The Eloi Weena does have a name though, and thus a distinction from the rest. Perhaps she carries a timeless quality?

1/30/2007 7:36 PM  
Blogger Danica said...

I think this is an interesting point. Another point you could make is that time itself is a creation of human beings. We created our conceptualization of time and how to standardize it. Therefore, time is further separated from nature. The universe, the world, nature...human beings did not create any of these things, but we did create the concept of time and its standardization.

4/29/2007 4:30 PM  
Blogger Shane_Wey said...

That's an interesting point that you make about the names. I had never thought about that. The effect of positions or vocations in place of names gives does not allow the reader to connect to the character on a personal level. I wonder what the exact purpose was for that in H.G. Wells' mind. Perhaps it is the reason that you gave about humans being ephemeral. Or maybe it is just saying that these people are not important, they are just vehicles through which Wells is trying to express his commentary on social classes.

4/29/2007 11:48 PM  

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