The Time Machine


H. G. Wells

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Time Machine can help.

The Time Machine: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

The Time Traveller awakens on the time machine, moving backwards towards his own era. Slowly the landscape becomes more recognizable, the laboratory reappears, and the Time Traveller comes to rest back in his home. The Time Traveller wonders for a moment if it had all been a dream, but realizes that the machine has landed several feet away from where it had begun its journey—the distance between where the machine landed in 801,702 to the room inside the Sphinx where the Morlocks brought it.
The Time Traveller, always the skeptic, is even inclined to disbelieve his own experiences. Luckily there is evidence that the time machine has moved. Tying the laboratory to the physical space of the garden and Sphinx statue also emphasizes the tremendous change throughout human history. Permanence is always an illusion.
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller then describes realizing the time and date and hearing the voices of his dinner guests—it was then that he came limping into the room, looking disheveled and hurt. He tells his dinner guests that he doesn’t expect them to believe him, but, nonetheless, he asks them what they think. The doctor indicates that he doesn’t believe the Time Traveller, but when he inspects the flowers that Weena had put in the Time Traveller’s pocket he notices that they are highly unusual.
Again, the Time Traveller acknowledges that others will be skeptical of his story (just as even he himself was when he landed back in the laboratory). Perhaps the reason that he acknowledges this is that the flowers are the clearest evidence he has of his travels, and they are apparently not enough evidence to prove to the dinner guests that he really traveled in time. Good science requires several corroborating observations or pieces of data, and the Time Traveller has only his dented time machine and Weena’s flowers.
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller leads his guests into the laboratory to see the time machine, which is dented and covered in grass. On the way out, the guests express disbelief, but the narrator states that he is undecided and he wants to go see the Time Traveller again the next day. When the narrator returns to the Time Traveller’s house, the Time Traveller is carrying a backpack and a camera and is about to set off on another voyage. The Time Traveller tells the narrator to wait a half hour for him while the Time Traveller goes forward and back again in time.
This final section is deeply concerned with evidence, and it is notable that the Time Traveller is returning to the future with a camera so that he can corroborate his own observations with physical evidence. The Time Traveller is not simply interested in telling a story—he wants to prove what he saw in order to make people listen to the lessons of the future.
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The narrator sits down in another room and the laboratory door closes. Then the narrator hears a noise, a rush of air, and breaking glass—the laboratory, when the narrator goes to inspect, is empty, and a skylight has been blown in. The narrator waited for hours, and he is still waiting—it has been three years, and the Time Traveller hasn’t returned.
The Time Traveller went on another voyage in order to advance human knowledge, but this final passage confirms that any quest for knowledge and human improvement must involve risk. This time, it seems that the Time Traveller’s risk has not paid off. Furthermore, there is no longer any way of proving or disproving the Time Traveller’s tale of the future.
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
Get the entire The Time Machine LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Time Machine PDF