The Time Machine

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The Eloi are humanlike creatures who are small, unintelligent, uncurious, weak, and also, importantly, benevolent and happy. They are the evolutionary descendants of the British elite, who exploited the British poor for so long that the poor evolved into a race of humanoids called the Morlocks. While the centuries of exploitation of the Morlocks complicates the picture of the Eloi as essentially good, they are a species characterized by kindness, and the Time Traveller becomes affectionate towards them on his travels. The Eloi face no adversity in their lives except that they are likely being raised for food by the Morlocks, who come to the surface of the earth at night and eat vulnerable Eloi.

The Eloi Quotes in The Time Machine

The The Time Machine quotes below are all either spoken by The Eloi or refer to The Eloi . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of The Time Machine published in 2014.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living, I felt this close resemblance between the sexes was after all what one would expect; for the strength of a man and the softness of a woman, the institution of the family, and the differentiation of occupations are mere militant necessities of an age of physical force…

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Time Traveller meets the Eloi he is initially disappointed to realize that they are feeble and unintelligent. However, the Time Traveller had assumed that people would have improved over the ages, so he works to fit his new observations into that framework. The way to make this future seem to be an improvement on the past is to believe that the Eloi are a utopian society whose particular characteristics have resulted from the ease and security with which they live—the Time Traveller suggests that they lost strength, intelligence, gender division, and clearly-defined family units because they no longer needed to work and protect one another. In this way, the Time Traveller frames the characteristics of the humans of his era as backwards. This hypothesis proves to be incorrect, and its formation shows the perils and process of the scientific method. The Time Traveller makes sense of his observations by fitting them into an existing framework of thought, and it is not until his observations have overwhelmingly contradicted this framework (the advancement of the species) that he is able to re-evaluate the framework and see what is really happening in the future.

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Strength is the outcome of need; security sets a premium on feebleness. The work of ameliorating the conditions of life—the true civilizing process that makes life more and more secure—had gone steadily on to a climax. One triumph of a united humanity over Nature had followed another. Things that are now mere dreams had become projects deliberately put in hand and carried forward. And the harvest was what I saw!

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

The Time Traveller’s utopian explanation of the Eloi society is at its most exuberant here. He assumes that, from his era onward, humans had come together to solve all the problems facing them and they had succeeded. The Eloi, he believes, are the race that resulted from mankind’s triumph over nature and adversity, and their characteristics that seem to be regressions (weakness, stupidity) are really just adaptations to utopian conditions. When he refers to the “harvest,” what he implies is that he is witnessing the fruits of hundreds of thousands of years of work to overcome adversity. This, he imagines, must be the pinnacle of the human race. The Time Traveller’s need to fit the Eloi into his framework of human progress shows how powerful the idea is that humans will constantly improve. The physical and mental weakness of the Eloi might have immediately suggested a backsliding of humanity, had the Time Traveller not been so convinced that this species must be the result of progress.

Chapter 5 Quotes

But gradually the truth dawned on me: that Man had not remained one species, but had differentiated into two distinct animals: that my graceful children of the Upper-world were not the sole descendants of our generation, but that this bleached, obscene, nocturnal Thing, which had flashed before me, was also heir to all the ages.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Related Symbols: Light, Darkness, and Fire
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

After the Time Traveller catches a glimpse of a white ape in the darkness, he follows it to one of the mysterious wells he has seen all over the landscape. Watching it descend underground (which the Time Traveller believes, based on the aboveground network of wells and towers, to have sophisticated ventilation), he comes to the conclusion that this thing, too, is a descendant of Victorian-era humans. This is the first real rattling of the Time Traveller’s hypothesis of inevitable human progress. While the Eloi seem comprehensible and benevolent, this new being makes the Time Traveller feel disgusted, and it is a disconcerting and upsetting conclusion that the human species has diverged into two. The Time Traveller’s new conclusion challenges the assumption that one species of human is destined to inhabit the earth alone (as it does in the Victorian era), as well as the assumption that humans will improve, since this being seems evil. It’s interesting, too, that the Time Traveller has a much easier time recognizing the benevolent Eloi as human, even though the Morlocks are equally humanoid in form. This suggests, again, that kindness plays a role in how humanity defines itself.

At first, proceeding from the problems of our own age, it seemed clear as daylight to me that the gradual widening of the present merely temporary and social difference between the Capitalist and the Labourer, was the key to the whole position.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

The Time Traveller consistently looks to explain the future society through economics, a tendency that is reflective of the dominance of economic theories in Victorian England. When he first sees the lack of houses in the future he assumes that the Eloi are communists, and now, knowing that there is an aboveground species that seems not to work, as well as an underground species, the Time Traveller makes a direct link to the economic conditions of his own era. Knowing the vast inequality between the British elite (“the Capitalist”) and the poor (“the Labourer”), the Time Traveller extrapolates that this division has morphed from a social difference to a biological one. Class-based inequality, in other words, has split the species into two: one the descendants of the poor, the other descendants of the rich. This reveals the social urgency of the whole book; Wells wants readers to understand that if class differences are not bridged, humanity could be preparing itself for a schism of a magnitude nobody could anticipate, and a dystopian future. The relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks, in other words, is a cautionary tale about social class in Victorian England.

Chapter 7 Quotes

The nemesis of the delicate ones was creeping on apace. 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! Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew. They were becoming reacquainted with Fear.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

The Time Traveller’s first interpretation of the future was that it was a stable and peaceful utopia; now he is reversing this idea in light of what he has inferred about the relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks. There is a shifting relationship between the two—the Eloi were once rulers, but now they are too feeble to keep the Morlocks at bay—and it is a relationship characterized by violence and exploitation. The Time Traveller predicts that it is the Morlocks who are in the slow process of triumphing, and this has led the Eloi to remember a feeling that they had, perhaps, forgotten: fear. To the Time Traveller, fear is an essential feeling because it spurs action, innovation, and intelligence. He seems to think, however, that the Eloi have come to feel this fear too late. The Morlocks, having been forced to work for the Eloi for centuries, retained some of their intelligence and strength while the Eloi lost theirs. Perhaps the Time Traveller believes that, even though fear has become a part of the Eloi society again, the Eloi do not have time to improve themselves as a result of fear before the Morlocks conquer them.

Still, however helpless the little people in the presence of their mysterious Fear, I was differently constituted. I came out of this age of ours, this ripe prime of the human race, when Fear does not paralyse and mystery has lost its terrors.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

The Time Traveller sees the Eloi as helpless before their fear (their reaction to feeling afraid, to sleep in one room and stay out of the darkness, is entirely defensive), but he sees himself as differently constituted because of the age he came from. As a scientist, the Time Traveller’s instinct is to press into mystery and learn all he can despite the risks of the unknown. This approach is opposite from the Eloi, who lack curiosity or an appetite for risk. The Time Traveller also sees fear as something that has made him strong and smart. By having to navigate fear consistently (at least compared to the Eloi, he thinks) during his life in Victorian England, he has learned not to be paralyzed by it—he can continue his life and he can work to fight his fears even though he might sometimes feel afraid. It is this unique constitution that allows the Time Traveller to navigate this unknown world and learn enough to eventually save his own life. This corroborates the Time Traveller’s belief that the Eloi have doomed themselves by adapting to easy lives.

And during these few revolutions all the activity, all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations, languages, literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew him, had been swept out of existence. Instead were these frail creatures who had forgotten their high ancestry, and the white Things of which I went in terror.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the book, the Time Traveller no longer feels at all proud of the utopian achievements of future humans. He knows now that class divisions have caused humanity to decay into two inferior species. As he looks at the stars (now so old that their patterns are unrecognizable), he mourns all of the effort and achievement of the past that has been lost as a result of this decay. The Eloi and Morlocks, all that remain of the vast and proud human tradition, are either stupid or evil. This is a moment of profound loss for the Time Traveller who, as a scientist, dedicates his life to the advancement of knowledge and technology in order to, ideally, better the future. So this moment not only points to the futility of human life and history overall, but also to the specific futility of the Time Traveller’s own life and passion for science. It’s an insult to him that after all of the centuries of human advancement and all of the effort put into solving problems and gaining knowledge, he now must live in terror of a humanoid creature that is weaker and less intelligent than he is.

Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was coming upon me by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human selfishness. Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon the labours of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his watchword and excuse, and in the fullness of time Necessity had come home to him. I even tried a Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy in decay. But this attitude of mind was impossible. However great their intellectual degradation, 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.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Once the Time Traveller realizes that the Morlocks are cannibals and that the Eloi’s great fear of them is the result of their worry that the Morlocks will eat them, he is gripped by an unprecedented horror at what has become of mankind. He acknowledges that this cannibalism is the result of human adaptations to prolonged inequality and he tries to even justify cannibalism to himself this way. If the Eloi forced the Morlocks to toil underground in order to keep the Eloi comfortable for centuries, then perhaps the Eloi becoming the prey of the Morlocks is a sort of Karmic justice for centuries of Morlock suffering. However, the Time Traveller remains unconvinced by this logic. Despite the fact that the Eloi are helpless and stupid, he identifies with them because they seem to him more human than the Morlocks. This isn’t because the Eloi are more intelligent (they’re not), but because they’re kind and sympathetic—and they simply look more human than the Morlocks. Aside from the Time Traveller’s aesthetic preference, this is the most powerful argument for kindness as being definitive of the thing contemporary humans recognize as “humanness” or “humanity,” even though the Time Traveller has previously tried to argue for the definitive quality being intelligence.

Chapter 10 Quotes

I understood now what the beauty of the Over-world people covered. Very pleasant was their day, as pleasant as the day of the cattle in the field. Like the cattle, they knew of no enemies and provided against no needs. And their end was the same.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi
Related Symbols: Light, Darkness, and Fire
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

The more the Time Traveller learns about the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks, the darker and more complex his ideas about the future society become. He had first understood the peacefulness of the Eloi as utopian, then as exploitative, and then as naïve in the face of the coming danger from the Morlocks. At this moment he ponders the idea that the Morlocks might be more in control of the Eloi than he previously thought, keeping their lives simple and easy in order to essentially grow them as livestock and eat them. The beauty of the Eloi is now corrupted for the Time Traveller—it’s simply a mask for a reality that is unimaginably dark. This passage suggests, too, that one consistent thread among all humans is a propensity for exploitation: first the Victorian rich exploiting the poor, then the Eloi exploiting the Morlocks, and now the Morlocks exploiting the Eloi. This points to a much more violent and evil picture of humanity than the Time Traveller, who thinks of Weena as human because of her goodness, has been willing to accept.

It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers. So, as I see it, the Upper-world man had drifted towards his feeble prettiness, and the Under-world to mere mechanical industry.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), The Eloi , The Morlocks
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the Time Traveller’s most lucid explanations of how he thinks natural selection has created these two races of people. Victorian humans were (relatively) smart and strong because they had to contend with adversity. Perversely, the Victorian elite’s strength and cunning allowed them to create a society where other people’s labor ensured that elites never faced adversity, which caused them to degenerate into a race that could be conquered by the very people who once served them. While Victorian elites often considered themselves to be genetically superior to the poor, Wells defies this explanation, suggesting that in the long view of history, genetics are malleable and power and “superiority” shift. The elites ruled the poor, in other words, because of circumstance and not biological superiority—thus, circumstance was then able to take them down. This is also another powerful argument for fear as a productive feeling, rather than solely a negative and destructive one. While many people would wish for a life free from fear, Wells argues that without fear we would cease to be recognizably human.

Epilogue Quotes

And I have before me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers—shriveled now, and brown and flat and brittle—to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Eloi , Weena
Related Symbols: Weena’s Flowers
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator, having expressed his discomfort with the darker implications of the Time Traveller’s tale of the future (cannibalism, social inequality, loss of knowledge and culture), chooses to focus on the fact that he has Weena’s flowers for comfort. These flowers symbolize the gestures of kindness and sympathy that made the Time Traveller feel at home in the future—they are, in a sense, symbolic of the only redeeming aspect of the future of the human race. In one sense, this is an argument for kindness as a fundamental human quality and it gives hope for the future of humanity. On the other hand, though, it’s just this kind of selective logic (choosing to focus on the good instead of the bad, and not striving for the whole picture) that gets the human race in trouble to begin with. The very conclusion that the narrator makes, which is essentially “at least there are nice people in the dystopian future,” is exemplary of a kind of thinking opposite of the Time Traveller’s, who is always looking to readjust his worldview to fit his observations. In this sense, then, the ending is both a slight bit of optimism—that not all humanity will die out even in a dystopian future—and a bleak conclusion for that same future, indicating that humans are not as rational and capable as they think they are.

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The Eloi Character Timeline in The Time Machine

The timeline below shows where the character The Eloi appears in The Time Machine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...then reveals the names of the two species: the Morlocks live below ground, and the Eloi above. (full context)
Chapter 6
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller begins sleeping indoors with the Eloi because he, too, has become afraid of the Morlocks. Even so, he understands that he... (full context)
Chapter 7
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...the obstacle to returning to his own era is not simply the stupidity of the Eloi, but the inhuman malevolence of the Morlocks. This sense is compounded by the coming of... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller reflects that while for thousands of years the Eloi must have been the rulers, the old order was slipping. The only reason the Morlocks... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
...traveled the sky has changed, human culture has become extinct, and what’s left are the Eloi and the Morlocks. He realizes suddenly that the Morlocks eat the Eloi. (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...wood. While they walk he reflects on what has led the Morlocks to eat the Eloi, who are their evolutionary relatives. He surmises that at a certain point the Morlocks ran... (full context)
Chapter 10
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...he reflects bitterly on his first innocent notions of this society, thinking now that the Eloi are somewhat like cattle whose needs are all met by farmers but who are then... (full context)