Monday, January 22, 2007

The Time Traveler

This was my umpteenth time reading H.G. Wells The Time Machine and I must say that this reading was the most enjoyable and I discovered much that I had not seen before when reading it just as entertainment.

I have 4 questions that I am left with after the reading:

1) Why if the time traveler promised to come back with proof "up to the hilt" has he never returned? Was it because he could not or would not?

2) The future that the time traveler ended up looking at was a future that did not include him in the process, i.e. when the time traveler went into the future he took himself out of the time line that lead there from the past. This could be taken to mean that what is really important is that we stay focused on the present, the here and now. But I do not think this is what Wells intended or even thought of, for if he did then the time traveler would have returned to his time and remained there and he did not. Which ties back into the first question why then has he not returned.

3) Which direction did the time traveler go into? The past? Or The Future? And how far? Unless I missed it in the reading Wells did not answer this for us. The movie versions both have. In them the time traveler goes boldly back into the future for love and to save humanity from itself. But I do not see anything in the reading were Wells points us in this direction.

And finally 4) If technology is bad for us how is it that the time traveler thinks that he can save the world using technology (i.e. the time machine) to save us? Wells does not give an answer but I do not think that the answer lies in more, better or even more complex machines. The answer rather has to rest with us or in us. Our morals, our politics, our economics et cetera. Machines are like weapons or tools it is how they are used that determines their value.


Dani said...

Perhaps he didn't return because he decided that maybe the human race wasn't ready for such technology, that they weren't ready for this tool. The beginning of the story had all these people naming off different uses for such a machine, and all the chances in the world to screw things up or misuse it somehow. Though that would pose the question of why didn't he just return to his time, then destroy his creation? If he didn't return with proof, he would have been seen as even more crazy, but if he had would people even be able to appreciate or understand it?

Jamie said...

Kirk, you raise some very interesting questions that do need answers. When I consider why the time traveler doesn't return with his proof I can't help but consider Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Plato poses the problem of what would happen if one person tried to introduce a drastically different version reality to society. In Plato's description the people of the cave kill the man trying to show them proof of a different reality. Its easier to kill one different opinion than to change the accepted reality of everyone else...even if that one different opinion is the true reality. This is another reason why the Morlocks continued to live underground and work even when they could have easily overthrown the Eloi.

I doubt the assumption that the time traveler didn't return with proof. A really interesting question is would humanity be willing to accept the proof he would offer? There are plenty of people in today's society that claim to have proof of the apocalypse, of alien abductions, the return of the messiah, and any other number of miraculous, world changing events and discoveries. But only a small number of people take these claims seriously and even give them serious thought. Granted lots of people, myself include, claim to be open to these types of claims, but when it comes to truly believing these claims we tend to blow them off. Mainstream thinking has a tendency to declare the minority making radical claims as 'crackpots' before taking a serious look at the evidence being offered.

Amanda said...

I can understand what you mean. I think we are suppose to draw our own conclusions from the fact that the time traveler did not return. Often times, writers will leave things up in the air to force the reader to think of the consequences of the final action, in this case the time traveler leaving and not returning. We, the reader, are suppose to ask questions just as you asked and use our knowledge to come to our own conclusion.