Monday, February 12, 2007

The Will of Humanity

H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is a curious text. It is very clearly a critique condemning the effects of industrialization on our society, but the story's criticism seems to span a bit wider than that. I see The Time Machine as a critique of human will and of the purpose and use of ANY technology. It is a reflection of social trends that humanity has set into motion long before the Industrial Revolution.

For example, let's examine the Eloi. They are said to be successors to an expansive race, a race that left behind massive building structures for which the Eloi have no use. The Eloi live in ignorant bliss, fragile and kind. What I think is most important about the Eloi race is the Time Traveler's description of them as "happy". Though they become fearful at night, their lives tend to be "happy". This is the first clue to Wells' critique of will. A race of technological ambition devolves into stupid, happy critters.

Next, we have The Time Traveler. He is the most important clue to Wells' intentions, mostly because of his own personal views regarding each race. He dislikes the Morlocks. In many respects, in fact, he empathizes with the Eloi. He sees the Morlocks as extremely dangerous, evil savages. In contrast, he adores the Eloi. In other words, he refuses to acknowledge the inherent flaws of Eloi society unless they directly affect him (eg. their inability to read), and he refuses to acknowledge the inherent virtues of the Morlocks unless they are stated from a wholly empirical standpoint (eg. their dominance over the Eloi). I would say, then, that the Time Traveler's affinity for the Eloi is a reflection of his own will and desires prior to his adventure.

Through the Eloi, Wells has conveyed the consequence of general human will. Humans want to be blissful. They do not want to work. They do not want to study. They do not want to have to defend themselves. They want to live lives of lazing luxury and simple freedom. Through The Time Travelever, Wells shows the connection between will and technology. The Time Traveler is a scientist who worships technology, and he empathizes with the Eloi. Completely oblivious to the connection, the Traveler does not understand why a race of such technological success has devolved into a race of fragile ignorami. The key is the technology, the reflection of the will of the race that ultimately leads to its demise.



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