Posted BY: Jack Cashill
If, in 1984, an inventive New Yorker set his time travel machine to the year 2023, the city in which he arrived would confound him. Although the New York City of today looks much like that of 1984, our time traveler would have a hard time understanding the people, almost as hard a time as H.G. Wells’s “Time Traveler” did when his machine arrived in the year 802,701.
The public response of the average New Yorker to the arrest of former Marine sergeant Daniel Penny calls to mind the “Eloi” response to Wells’s Traveler. The Eloi were the little, pretty people of the future whom the Time Traveler encountered. “Once the favored aristocracy,” says the Traveler, “the Eloi, like the Carolingian kings, had decayed to a mere beautiful futility.”
The passivity of the Eloi allowed the subterranean Morlocks, once their servants, to become their masters. “Already the Eloi had begun to learn one old lesson anew,” says the Traveler. “They were becoming reacquainted with Fear.” Unfortunately for their future, the Eloi had lost their spines. Eloi males no longer had even the instinct to rescue one of their own from peril or to defend themselves from the creeping cannibalism of the Morlocks.
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Enter the Time Traveler. In writing The Time Machine in 1895, Wells endowed his protagonist with those many virtues expected of an Englishman in the age of Victoria and Kipling. Tempted to leave behind the chaos he found in the future, the Traveler feels honor-bound to intervene; to save the Eloi from extinction; and, in the process, to show them how to save themselves.