Time Machine: Movie vs. Book

After spending about an hour trying to write up a formal paper about what I learned from the book “Time Machine” by H.G. Wells, I decided I was going to throw out formal and just write out my thoughts.

I got sick this week so I have had a lot of time to think. I borrowed the movie “Time Machine” from my friend Brittni. I had seen previews and was expecting it to be an action packed film with a thin plot to hold it together. I knew it was based on a book, but I had never read it.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the metaphors and patterns that were consistent throughout the movie. The most obvious metaphor to me was the connections light had to do with the past.

For those of you who have no prior experience with the movie let me give you a brief summary. A scientist is about to propose to a woman when an accident happens and she is killed. He feels responsible for her death and motivated by his obsession to make things right, he builds a time machine to return to the moment and make it right. He learns however, that he cannot change the past. He realizes that science and technology in his time, are not advanced enough to fully understand time travel- so he travels to the future, hoping to find more answers. He is brought to a time 800,000 years in the future and finds two separate species that have evolved from humans. There are the Eloi that live in the light and the Morlock, who have evolved to survive underground.

As the story plays out, we realize that the Eloi are a peaceful people who are easily able to accept the misfortunes of the past and don’t seem to have any hope or even concept of the future. They live their simple lives day after day with no bother of time. They make it a point to never discuss anything that would remind them of fear or pain they may have experienced in the past.
In contrast, the Morlock seem to be driven entirely by the past and what they expect of the future. Because their people were forced into the ground thousands of years before, they have evolved into warped creatures. Their entire existence is based on staying alive by feeding upon the creatures that forced the tragedy of their underground lifestyle.

Alex, the main character, has both Eloi and Morlock in him. He is driven by the past of the woman that haunts him and the future that could be, but learns through the course of the movie the beauty of living life with no regrets or expectations. He has to decide which side of him will conquer, and has to save one from the other.
While this theme was beautifully portrayed, it left me confused. I didn’t understand a lot of the specifics. This made me decide I would try to gain more insight by reading the book.

I was surprised by not only how different the story was, but especially by how different the message was. I think there is one passage in the book that sums up the message of the book beautifully. H.G. Wells writes “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.”
In the novel, it explains that the Eloi were at one point the higher class. They forced the lower class into the ground to do all of the work for them. The more work the Morlock did, the more perfect the life of the Eloi became. The more perfect their life was, the easier it became. They eventually evolved into nothing more than child like adults. Their attention spans were shortened, their capacity to reason was taken away,their language was diminished to only communicate simple ideas, and even their dna became so basic they all looked close to the same.
H.G. Wells suggests that a society or even a single life without train or struggle creates a life of complacency and eventually stagnancy. The Morlock evolved into a much more capable society and were eventually able to turn the tables because of the many difficulties they had to overcome.

The book played out more like an observation. The time traveler found himself emotionally effected by the sad and simple lives of the Eloi, but spent his entire time there trying to retrieve his machine so that he could return home. He felt no need to change what had become, simply to escape it.

I am really glad that I saw the movie before the book. I think this has allowed me to love them both equally. I enjoyed the story of the movie much better, but the message of the book strikes a true chord within me. I have decided if I were ever to become a literature teacher, I would spend a lot of time discussing the meaning and symbolism in this book. I found it an entirely satisfying read- and even more than that. I found it intellectually delicious!

1 comment:

AshleyShell@gmail.com said...

I appreciate your review; it told me exactly what I wanted to know! I haven't seen the movie OR read the book, but my husband wants to watch the movie, and I was curious about the differences. Thanks!

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