The Time Machine

The Time Traveller Character Analysis

Though he is not the narrator of The Time Machine, the Time Traveller is the book’s protagonist. He is an eminent but eccentric British scientist, and his particular interest in time travel leads him to build a time machine that transports himself into the future. Much of the Time Traveller’s character is revealed through his observations and storytelling—for instance, the fact that he values intelligence above all other human traits becomes clear as a result of his obsessive disappointment that the humans of the future are stupid and uncurious. The Time Traveller thinks like a scientist, always forming hypotheses about the world and adjusting them based on his observations, even if he doesn’t like what these observations suggest about humanity. The other notable characteristic of the Time Traveller is that, while he is a member of the British elite (as evident by the company he keeps at dinner parties), he is not at home with them. The other elites view him as far too clever and, for that reason, suspect.

The Time Traveller Quotes in The Time Machine

The The Time Machine quotes below are all either spoken by The Time Traveller or refer to The Time Traveller. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet Classics edition of The Time Machine published in 2014.
Chapter 3 Quotes

What might appear when that hazy curtain was altogether withdrawn? What might not have happened to men? What if cruelty had grown into a common passion? What if in this interval the race had lost its manliness, and had developed into something inhuman, unsympathetic, and overwhelmingly powerful? I might seem some old-world savage animal, only the more dreadful and disgusting for our common likeness—a foul creature to be incontinently slain.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Very simple was my explanation, and plausible enough—as most wrong theories are!

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

To sit among all these unknown things before a puzzle like that is hopeless. That way lies monomania. Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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For, by merely seeming fond of me, and showing in her weak, futile way that she cared for me, the little doll of a creature presently gave my return to the neighborhood of the White Sphinx almost the feeling of coming home.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), Weena
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

I saw an inscription in some unknown character. I thought, rather foolishly, that Weena might help me to interpret this, but I only learned that the bare idea of writing had never entered her head. She always seemed to me, I fancy, more human than she was, perhaps because her affection was so human.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker), Weena
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth’s fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebb away.

Related Characters: The Time Traveller (speaker)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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Epilogue Quotes

Or did he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own part, cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment, fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man’s culminating time!

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Time Traveller
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Time Traveller Character Timeline in The Time Machine

The timeline below shows where the character The Time Traveller appears in The Time Machine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
...of well-educated, upper-class professionals and specialists, including his friend, an eminent scientist whom he calls the Time Traveller . The Time Traveller is describing to his guests principles of science and math, including... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller goes to his laboratory and returns with a small model of a machine made of... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller then reveals that he has nearly finished building a life-size version of the model in... (full context)
Chapter 2
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
The narrator reflects that nobody believed the Time Traveller at the time because he was considered to be too clever, or not serious enough,... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
When the narrator arrives at the Time Traveller ’s house, one of the dinner guests is holding a note from the Time Traveller... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
While the Time Traveller is washing up, his guests speculate about what has happened to him, generally mocking the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller says that he finished his time machine the previous week and immediately decided to try... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
It is the year 802,701, and the Time Traveller finds himself in a garden of strange flowers, near a large Sphinx-like statue made of... (full context)
Chapter 4
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
One of the frail beings looks at the Time Traveller and smiles, and the Time Traveller is taken by the being’s lack of fear. After... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller unscrews the levers from his time machine but leaves the frame in the garden. He... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The beings lead the Time Traveller to a large building in which there are exotic flowers, fruits, and bushes, and an... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller decides to learn the language, and, through gestures, begins by asking the beings to name... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller explores the landscape, trying to observe the details and make sense of them to determine... (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
Noting the ease of the lives these beings lead, the Time Traveller remarks that it seemed only natural that distinctions between the sexes and the distinctions 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
Reflecting on the landscape from a hilltop, the Time Traveller assembles his initial reflection on this society he has encountered. It is humanity “upon the... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...an idyllic and easy life, in harmony with one another and the natural world, but the Time Traveller feels bittersweet about this society, even though it seems to be the realization of all... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
Darkness descends and the Time Traveller returns from the hills to find a place to sleep. As he approaches the garden... (full context)
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The most unsettling aspect of the time machine being hidden is that the Time Traveller knows that the beings he met do not have the physical strength or intellectual curiosity... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
When day breaks, the Time Traveller feels more rational, and he decides to find the hiding place of the time machine.... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...the panel to see if they can open it, but they behave oddly, as though the Time Traveller is being rude. He asks several more beings, who give the same response, and in... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller returns to the large building and feels that the beings are avoiding him, though after... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller begins to realize that his explanation that this society has all its needs automatically met... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The same day, while watching the beings bathe in the river, The Time Traveller notices one of them drowning. He rescues her, and afterwards she attaches herself to him,... (full context)
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
Weena’s behavior makes the Time Traveller understand that fear is still a presence in this society. Weena is afraid, in particular,... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The morning that he awakened with something touching him, the Time Traveller recalls, was before he met Weena. He had seen a grey being dash away, and... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
One morning the Time Traveller is seeking shelter from the heat, and he finds in a ruin a chamber that... (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 follows the ape into the darkness and feels around until he finds one of 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
From this experience, the Time Traveller concludes that the human race has evolved into two separate species: the beings he knows,... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller returns to Weena without entering the well that day, but he continues to puzzle over... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The connection is then made to the Time Traveller ’s own era—the above-ground beings are the descendants of the ruling class of the Time... (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
This changes the way the Time Traveller thinks of the society he has encountered. While he once referred to it as a... (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.... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The next morning, the Time Traveller resolves to descend into one of the wells. Weena runs after him, and when he... (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 is awakened by the feeling of something touching his face, and he quickly strikes a... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
His match goes out, and the Time Traveller suddenly realizes he only has a few matches left, which are his only weapon against... (full context)
Chapter 7
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller feels a sense of impending doom when he realizes that the obstacle to returning to... (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... (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. He sets off... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
As darkness falls, Weena becomes frightened and tired and the Time Traveller has to carry her. He comes to a thick wood and decides that the danger... (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 barely sleeps that night, and in the morning he and Weena traverse the wood. While... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller then lays out his objectives for the green building: he needs a place of refuge,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
When Weena and the Time Traveller reach the Palace of Green Porcelain, they realize that it is dilapidated. It’s immediately clear... (full context)
Inequality and Social Class Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
In the gallery with the machines, Weena’s fear makes the Time Traveller realize that the floor slopes into darkness. In the dark corners there is much less... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Upstairs, the Time Traveller finds a gallery of technical chemistry where there is a well-preserved box of matches under... (full context)
Chapter 9
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller and Weena leave the museum just before sunset, and the Time Traveller vows to walk... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Throughout the walk, the Time Traveller has been gathering sticks as tinder for the fire he and Weena will sleep by.... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
For a while, the fire lights the Time Traveller ’s walk and he and Weena have no need for matches. He is dimly aware... (full context)
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller decides to camp where he is for the night, since in the morning light he... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
Though it seemed only a moment since he closed his eyes, when the Time Traveller awakens everything is dark and the Morlocks are grabbing him. His match box is gone,... (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 that the darkness is becoming... (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... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller searches for Weena, but he cannot find her. He determines that she has died in... (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
When the Time Traveller reaches the Sphinx he reflects bitterly on his first innocent notions of this society, thinking... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The Time Traveller sleeps and wakes up just before sunset. He takes his iron bar and approaches the... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 11
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller hurtles through time for a while before he realizes that he is moving forward instead... (full context)
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller hears a harsh cry and sees a white animal in the sky that looks like... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Inching into the future, the Time Traveller is “drawn on by the mystery of the earth’s fate, watching with a strange fascination... (full context)
Chapter 12
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
The Time Traveller awakens on the time machine, moving backwards towards his own era. Slowly the landscape becomes... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller then describes realizing the time and date and hearing the voices of his dinner guests—it... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
The Time Traveller leads his guests into the laboratory to see the time machine, which is dented and... (full context)
Technology and Progress Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
...The narrator waited for hours, and he is still waiting—it has been three years, and the Time Traveller hasn’t returned. (full context)
Epilogue
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Humans, Nature, and the Universe Theme Icon
Fear and Kindness Theme Icon
The narrator wonders about the Time Traveller ’s fate, imagining him in a future in which all of mankind’s problems are solved.... (full context)