Sunday, February 04, 2007

Degeneration of Humanity in The Time Machine

There are certain traits that characterize humanity that are thought to transcend culture and time, such as compassion, analytical intellect, empathy, hatred, etc. In The Time Machine, Wells creates this parallel idea of what humanity consists of. On the one hand there are the Eloi, who have the form and emotions of human beings of today, but they do not have the intellect of present-time humans. On the other hand there are the Morlocks, who look nothing like present-day humans, but they do have enough intelligence to understand machinery, to trap the Time Traveler, and to differentiate between the existence of the Time Traveler and the Eloi. However, the Time Traveler does not view each of these species has human, and shows an inconsistency in his explanation of what humanity means.

There is an inconsistency in the Time Traveler’s views of the Eloi. Because of the degradation of the intellect of the Eloi, the Time Traveler did not view them as completely human. Upon seeing an inscription on the wall of the Palace, the Time Traveler tries to have Weena decipher the inscription, but learned that “the bare idea of writing had never entered her head” (82). He then states, “She always seemed to me more human than she was” (83). Yet because the Eloi has kept the human form, they are able to “claim [the Time Traveler’s] sympathy” (81). Because of the way the Eloi live, they are deficient in intellect and abilities. The do not need to know how to swim, think, or even prepare food, but they still have human emotions. After being saved by the Time Traveler, Weena expresses her gratitude by giving him “a big garland of flowers” (54). This bouquet shows that the Eloi are still have human emotions such as gratitude and appreciation of beauty. In the epilogue, the narrator views the flowers as “witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man” (120). The Time Traveler and even the narrator show that the Eloi portray some aspects of humanity through the idea that they still express some emotions.

The reasons behind why the Time Traveler sees the Eloi as less than human does not carry out to his reasoning behind why the Morlocks are less than human. The Time Traveler views the Morlocks as “inhuman sons of men” and that they are “less human and more remote than our cannibal ancestors” (80). Yet, his idea of the Eloi as being less than human due to their lack of intelligence does not carry through to the Morlocks. Their humanity is displayed when the Time Traveler finds his time machine. He finds that the time machine was “carefully oiled and cleaned” (103). This shows that the Morlocks have an understanding of technology to some degree. As the Time Traveler begins to examine the time machine, the bronze panels “suddenly slid up and struck the frame with a clang” (103). The Morlocks are clever enough to trap the Time Traveler by using his machine as a lure. They also realize that they are fighting against only the Time Traveler by luring him alone into the panels of the sphinx. The Time Traveler has this inconsistent view of what humanity is. On the one hand, he views the Eloi as less than human because of their lack of intellect, but on the other hand he does not acknowledge the intellect that the Morlocks have.

Through the time machine, the idea that humanity can lose its essence is brought to light. Two creatures exist with faint traces of the basic principles of what humanity is. One has the emotions that separates humans from animals, but does not have the analytical intellect of a human. The other has the ability to reason, but does not have the form of human. The idea that humanity can transcend time is shattered to some degree within The Time Machine and is replaced with the idea that humans may literally adapt to their stations in life. Yet, Wells overlooks one of the most basic human emotions, compassion. It is hard to believe that the Haves will not feel any compassion towards the Have-Nots before these adaptations of each species could even occur. It is still harder to believe humanity gets trumped by time, and this may be the reasons for the inconsistencies in the Time Traveler’s idea of what humanity is.



Blogger Alex K said...

As you say, Eloi and Morlock both exhibit certain characteristics that are often used in describing humans (intelligence, emotions, morality, etc.) Since the Time Traveller is placed in the time and space that is foreign, without the knowledge of the environment and the context of the two "races" and how they evolved, he must rely on the aforementioned characteristics when observing the two races and trying to attribute what fraction of humanity is still detectable.

From my previous posting (1/28 8:48A), someone anonymously posted: "I don't think that the Morlocks are immoral, because there is a reason why the Morlocks turned into the way they are." The Time traveller fails to recognize the events that led to the bipolar society and uses the context he is familiar with - his current time – in order to make judgment. I think it is important to note that while he dismisses Morlocks as “inhuman sons of men,” when positioned into futuristic environment/stimuli, he also becomes “inhumane” – he turns violent against Morlocks and reveals his yearning to murder them.

2/04/2007 9:34 PM  
Blogger Eddie Nguyen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/01/2007 3:54 AM  
Blogger Eddie Nguyen said...

I think it is an interesting point you bring up about how The Time Traveller viewed rhe Eloi as human-like because of their apparent emotion while disregarded the Morlocks' humanity despite their (human-like) intellect.

Though I think it is understandable to classify both emotionality and intelligence as characteristics of humanity, I think that Wells made this distinction deliberately as an allegory to remind us during our pursuits of intellectually-founded technology, not to forget what it is that truly makes us human--our compassion, our emotion.

Though many will argue that intelligence is what separates us from other animals, it is important to note that almost all animals possess forms of intelligence; it is only that we possess such a higher degree of intelligence that makes us different. However, what truly makes us unique compared to most other animals on the planet is our compassion, our ability to empathize and to love another not for what they can do for us (sorry dog lover's if you disagree) but for who they are. Compared to emotion, intelligence thus becomes a much less pertinent means of measuring humanity.

5/01/2007 4:06 AM  

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