"The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells

Una de las obras fundacionales de la ciencia ficción y, sobre todo, del concepto del viaje en el tiempo, esta novela es también una aguda reflexión sobre la industrialización y la tecnología.

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H.G. Wells The Time Machine

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More than a century after it was written, The Time Machine continues to capture the imagination. The novel by Herbert George Wells – better known as H. G. Wells – has an enduring appeal despite its antiquated language. It’s written as a frame narrative: the story is sandwiched within a narrative. In other words, it is a story within a story. The narrator, an English scientist, describes his meeting with a man known only as the Time Traveller, at a club with a group of men. The man says that he believes that time exists in a fourth dimension. He has invented a time machine to prove it, and has used it to travel to the future.

- “The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness.”

“El hecho es que el Viajero a través del Tiempo era uno de esos hombres demasiado inteligentes para ser creídos; con él se tenía la sensación de que nunca se le percibía por entero; sospechaba uno siempre en él alguna sutil reserva, alguna genialidad emboscada, detrás de su lúcida franqueza”.


The Time Traveller then begins his story. He explains that he travelled to the year 802,701 and encountered a kind of paradise built on the ruins of modern society. The world is inhabited by small, beautiful, but frail people, called the Eloi. He shares exotic fruit with them and tries to learn their language. When his time machine disappears, he decides to learn more of this world. 


Soon, the idyllic appearance of the world is shattered, when he discovers the Morlocks, hideous, ape-like creatures who appear to prey on the innocent Eloi. The story turns darker, as the Time Traveller relates his adventures in the future world. At the end of the story, the men of the club are very sceptical about the Time Traveller’s tale. The original narrator continues the storyline. He himself has his doubts and, before the novel ends, a big revelation is made.


The Time Machine is a work of science fiction, though such novels were called ‘scientific romances’ at the time. At the end of the 19th century, the industrial age ushered in the technological age. Railroad networks, the telegraph and utilities became widespread amid popular speculation on where all these new technological innovations could lead to.

- “Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.”

“Contemplando aquellas estrellas disminuyeron mis propias inquietudes y las seriedades de la vida terrenal. Pensé en su insondable distancia, y en el curso lento e inevitable de sus movimientos desde el desconocido pasado hacia el desconocido futuro”.


Novelists like H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs offered some exciting ideas. Wells’ novel stands out as the first and possibly the greatest modern depiction of time travel. Together with Verne, he is considered by many to be the father of science fiction. Unlike Verne’s adventurous style, however, Wells’ brand of science fiction always included a touch of social criticism. In the case of The Time Machine, the science described is inferior to Wells’ underlying critique of the English class structure.

- “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 [...] And the harvest was what I saw.”

“La fuerza es el resultado de la necesidad; la seguridad establece un premio a la debilidad. La obra de mejoramiento de las condiciones de vida —el verdadero proceso civilizador que hace la vida cada vez más segura— había avanzado constantemente hacia su culminación. [...] ¡Y lo que yo veía era el fruto de aquello!”.


The concept of time travel continues to fascinate us today. As technology and scientific discovery advance, we keep on wondering if, one day, it would be possible to travel forward or backward in time. H. G. Wells coined the phrase ‘time machine’ in his novel and he was responsible for popularising the idea of time travel through such a vehicle.

- “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.”

“Una ley natural que olvidamos es que la versatilidad intelectual es la compensación por el cambio, el peligro y la inquietud. Un animal en perfecta armonía con su medio ambiente es un perfecto mecanismo. La Naturaleza no hace nunca un llamamiento a la inteligencia, como el hábito y el instinto no sean inútiles. No hay inteligencia allí donde no hay cambio ni necesidad de cambio. Sólo los animales que cuentan con inteligencia tienen que hacer frente a una enorme variedad de necesidades y de peligros”.


The Time Machine has been made into three feature films and two television films, as well as several comic books. It has also served as inspiration for countless novels and films which have expanded on its central concept of time travel using a vehicle. If this kind of science fiction ever turns into science fact, no doubt future time travellers will come back and tell us all about it!

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