Sunday, February 04, 2007

"The Proletariat: Friend or Foe"

In the latter half of H.G. Wells’ novel, The Time Machine, the Time Traveller is illuminated to sinister elements in the relationship between the Morlocks and the Eloi. After descending into one of the Morlock’s wells, the Time Traveller discovers that the Morlocks are carnivorous, unlike the Eloi. At first, the Time Traveller speculates about the source of their meat. Later, he concludes that the Morlocks must prey upon the Eloi at night, which would explain their fear of the dark and shadows as well. The Time Traveller describes this role-reversal when he says, “Ages ago, thousands of generations ago, man had thrust his brother man out of the ease and the sunshine. And now that brother was coming back – changed!”(48). According to the Time Traveller, the old order had been reversed; a revolution had taken place.

The revolution that the Time Traveller describes between the Eloi and the Morlocks resembles the revolution that Marxists prophesized with the emergence of industry. For instance, the Time Traveller describes the Eloi as, “Like the Carlovingian Kings, [who] had decayed to a mere beautiful futility”(48). This shows a Marxist belief about revolution because Marxists believed that in the future there would be no need for capitalists and that workers would assume control over industry. So in line with Marxists’ theories on revolution, the Eloi had become futile and displaced by the Morlocks. Further, the relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks resembles the relationship that Marxists described between capitalists and the proletariat. For example, the Time Traveller repeatedly refers to the Eloi as the aristocracy and the Morlocks as workers. For instance, the Time Traveller says, “The Upper-world people might once have been the favoured aristocracy, and the Morlocks their mechanical servants; but that had long since passed away”(48). So, the events of the future that the Time Traveller depicts reflect Marxists’ predictions concerning the worker’s revolution and displacement of capitalists.

However, the Time Traveller does not describe the future as a utopian community like the Marxists. The Time Traveller regards the Morlocks as “inhuman and malign” (48). Instead of praising the Morlocks, the working class, the Time Traveller prefers the Eloi, the representation of the capitalists. The Time Traveller explains his sympathy for the Eloi when he says, “The Eloi had kept too much of the human form not to claim my sympathy, and to make me perforce a sharer in their degradation and their Fear” (53). His affection for the Eloi is represented in his relationship with Weena as well. So, had working for ages on the machines underground made the Morlocks inhuman? Perhaps, but the Time Traveller does not have a disdain for machines. When the Time Traveller is in the museum he says, “Here I was in my element, for rising on either side of me were the huge bulks of big machines. You know I have a certain weakness for mechanism, and I was inclined to linger among these” (55). So, the Time Traveller’s affection for the Eloi and his description of the future as ripe with conflict and fear between the Eloi and Morlocks betrays the Marxists’ preference for the working class.



Blogger Nehal N said...

Your emphasis on how the Morlocks were seen with mild disdain, even though Wells wrote in an age of growing socialist theories including communism, is a good show of contrast. Especially, your questioning of whether or not the proletariat is seen as "friend or foe."
Not only is there a direct adaptation of class struggle, as you showed, through a proletariat revolution, Wells seems to appreciate the lavish lifestyles of the bourgeoisie, and yet still hints at some appreciation of the machine-like elements of the morlocks. It would be interesting to look at Wells' own political theories and how he adapted them into his novel.

2/04/2007 10:53 PM  
Blogger Shane_Wey said...

You say that the Morlocks are a species of inhuman creatures and that the future is ridden with fear that drives apart two classes. However, it makes me wonder what someone from that future would think if he or she came to the present. The Time Traveller judges the future on the inhuman aspects - mainly cannibalism. There seems to be only two kinds of people in the future and they get along with each other within their divisions. The Eloi live in harmony among each other and so do the Morlocks. In the present, there are hundreds of different races, religious and cultures. Ignorance of these differences causes war, terrorism, and genocide (Darfur). Is the future that the Time Traveler describes really worse than the present? It would be interesting to read a narrative on how a Morlock or Eloi would panic, go crazy, and get murdered if they time traveled back to the present day Oakland or Compton.

2/13/2007 7:53 PM  

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