The Time Machine

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The Morlocks Character Analysis

The British poor toiled in dark conditions for so long that they evolved into a subterranean race of humans who could no longer see in the daylight. While they once likely ate animals like rats that they found underground, this food supply ran out and the Morlocks became cannibalistic, preying on their evolutionary cousins, the Eloi.While the Eloi faced no adversity for centuries, thereby losing their strength and intelligence, the Morlocks (as a result of their harsh conditions) retained much greater capabilities. The Morlocks are seen by the Time Traveller as an evil species, and their clammy, pale bodies and enormous eyes certainly contribute to their menacing aura, but it’s important to note that the Morlocks prey on the Eloi out of necessity. They have no other food, and they have been exploited by the Eloi for centuries, which makes their moral position complex. Nonetheless, the Morlocks are the antagonists of The Time Machine, and part of the book’s pessimism is its conclusion that the Morlocks are on their way to ruling the earth.

The Morlocks Quotes in The Time Machine

The The Time Machine quotes below are all either spoken by The Morlocks or refer to The Morlocks . 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 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.

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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.

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

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.

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The Morlocks Character Timeline in The Time Machine

The timeline below shows where the character The Morlocks 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
...most plausible one he found. He 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
...Traveller begins sleeping indoors with the Eloi because he, too, has become afraid of the Morlocks. Even so, he understands that he can only retrieve the time machine by descending into... (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
...he quickly strikes a match to be able to see what it is—there are three Morlocks who immediately flee the light of the match. The Time Traveller notices that they are... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...realizes he only has a few matches left, which are his only weapon against the Morlocks. In the darkness something touches his face and picks at his clothing. When the Time... (full context)
Chapter 7
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...era is not simply the stupidity of the Eloi, but the inhuman malevolence of the Morlocks. This sense is compounded by the coming of the new moon, which means that the... (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
...Eloi must have been the rulers, the old order was slipping. The only reason the Morlocks hadn’t yet claimed the surface is that their eyes could not adjust, but their strength,... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
In order to search for materials that might be helpful against the Morlocks, the Time Traveller decides to look inside the green porcelain building he had seen before.... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
...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
...and Weena traverse the 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... (full context)
Chapter 8
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...minerals and machines, stirring his imagination for how he could use such materials against the Morlocks. (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...dark corners there is much less dust, which is a sign of the presence of Morlocks. The Time Traveller breaks a lever off of a machine to use as a weapon,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...and Weena will sleep by. As they walk through the woods, though, he feels the Morlocks close by and realizes that he cannot strike a match to keep them at bay... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...but is not concerned. Finally, they reach an area that is dark enough for the Morlocks to appear, and when he feels them tugging at him he puts Weena down in... (full context)
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...kindling, realizing just how dry this forest is, and lights a fire while watching the Morlocks’ eyes dotting the darkness. He figures he has an hour before he needs to replenish... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...since he closed his eyes, when the Time Traveller awakens everything is dark and the Morlocks are grabbing him. His match box is gone, and he panics, fearing death. Struggling with... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Morlocks retreat from the Time Traveller and are chattering nervously. Suddenly, the Time Traveller becomes aware... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
Finally the Time Traveller emerges from the woods, and on the bare hillside he sees Morlocks running around in a blind panic. He strikes several of them before deciding to leave... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...in the fire, and he is heartbroken but also relieved that she died without the Morlocks eating her. Exhausted and overwhelmed, he begins to walk back towards the Sphinx. As he... (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
...partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.” The Morlocks deteriorated because, for many years, all they had to do was operate machines. This allowed... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...enters, however, the panels close and the Time Traveller is trapped in the dark. The Morlocks begin to approach, and the Time Traveller tries to strike a match so that he... (full context)
Chapter 12
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
...between where the machine landed in 801,702 to the room inside the Sphinx where the Morlocks brought it. (full context)