When the Time Traveller reaches the Sphinx 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 harvested for meat. He continues on, thinking about how human intellect has deteriorated due to lack of struggle. “It’s a law of nature we overlook,” he explains, “that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble….Only those animals 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 them to retain enough intelligence, though, to prey on the Eloi once their food source dried up. The Time Traveller concedes that this explanation could be wrong, but it is the best one he can think of.
Fear and danger have just led the Time Traveller to revel in violently killing Morlocks and to make terrible decisions that risked his life and took Weena’s. It’s indicative of his values that, even so, he still views fear as necessary to humanity. Clearly intelligence is, for him, a more defining human trait than kindness or peace, which makes sense, since his passion is science. The Time Traveller continues to mirror the scientific method in his thought: he has evolved from thinking that the Eloi are a utopian society to thinking of them as livestock. It’s important to note that the Time Traveller always acknowledges that his thinking might be wrong.
The Time Traveller sleeps and wakes up just before sunset. He takes his iron bar and approaches the Sphinx, only to find that the metal panels are already open and the time machine is clearly on display. The Time Traveller casts aside his iron bar and enters the chamber with the time machine.
It seems like a remarkable lapse in judgment that after all his struggles, the Time Traveller believes that the time machine could simply be made available to him in the end, one that shows he’s not as rational as he seems to believe.
As soon as he 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 can keep them at bay while he fixes the levers on the machine, but he realizes that the matches are the kind that only light on the box. The Time Traveller fights the Morlocks in the darkness while trying to attach the levers and feels that he might lose to them. Nonetheless, he fixes the levers and, just in time, catapults himself away from that moment, leaving the Morlocks behind.
Ultimately, the Time Traveller is alone in the darkness with the Morlocks without any of the technology he brought back from the museum. It is technology that saves him, though—it’s the time machine, the very machine that put him in this danger to begin with. This is a moment of profound contradictions in the role of technology, as it again endangers him and also saves him.