Monday, February 05, 2007

Time, Productivity and Family

What struck me as particularly unique and insightful in H.G. Wells “The Time Machine” was the revelations about contemporary relationship with and purpose of time. Time has very often been the source and the reason for the way society functioned—night implied a time of darkness where work could no longer be done and daybreak marked the beginning of the working day, the time when it would once again be possible to be productive. In past societies and in our own, time alone has been responsible for many facets of natural life. In the United States, for one example, time dictates just about everything: political life (through elections and/or times of service), social life (with what is deemed appropriate at a certain time in an individual’s life) and economic life (monetary gain and loss being marked by time periods). Time very much impacts the daily life of our productivity.

In “The Time Machine”, however, the Time Traveller stumbled randomly upon a world that’s conception of time is solely revolved around night and day. There is no importance placed upon productivity and initially the Time Traveller marvels at this societies ability to live in a truly Communistic world (where greed or ambition simply don’t play a role in the day to day goings on of the year 8271). He plays particular attention to the familial structure, which, according to the works of several theorists studied in sociology, political science and anthropology, unveils the most discerning and discriminating facts about the beliefs and traditions of any one society. The family structure, which the Time Traveller argues is basically nonexistent in the year 8271, is one of a few major ways that outsiders are able to understand what is valued by a society as well as expose the basic power structure within a particular society.

The lack of familial structure in 8271, as theorized in this book, was further emphasized through the story of Weena, who would have drowned without so much as an glance from the others had it not been for the duty felt by the Time Travellers. This duty, that is a staple of our modern way of interacting with others, says much about the relationship that we in the modern day have with time in that time is not something that is wasted. Just in the same way that the Time Traveller would not stand idly by and watch the life of Weena go to waste (and her “time” cut unceremoniously short), our modern relationship with any “waste” of time (or taking time for granted, rather) was unveiled and highlighted.

Ultimately the modern relationship and emphasis on productivity as well as what is revealed by the lack of familial bonding and structure is one of the core ways that the conception of time is played with and manipulated in “The Time Machine”. The fact that everybody in the present time of the novel is referred to by their occupations is revealing of the implicit notion that time is not important unless productivity is evident. The lack of family structure is simply a byproduct of this mentality seen at its most shocking height.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Nina said...

I liked what you were saying, but I didn't quite get the whole picture. Did you mean that, because people are so obsessed with productivity in the workplace now and consequently neglect their families, they carry this habit with them through their evolution into Eloi? If so, then why do the Eloi have no family structure even though they no longer have to work?

Or, on the other hand, do you mean that people are obsessed with work so that they can support their families, and that's why the Eloi, who don't work, have no interest in having families?

I'm not trying to pick a fight, I just want to understand what you're saying :)

btw, I wonder who raises the children? Or do the children just spring forth, fully-formed, with all adult mental capacities? (Just being nitpicky now.)

2/06/2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

I agree that time plays a crucial role in society today. To the statement, "Time very much impacts the daily life of our productivity," I can testify to myself. In my daily do-abouts I am constantly checking the time (which I no longer do on my watch, which is left at home, but on my cell phone - technological advances/influences) to see how much time I can afford to continue my activities until I'm off to the next thing on my itinerary.

2/12/2007 11:38 PM  

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