In The Time Traveller, H. G. Wells paints a picture of a future where humanity has eliminated all struggle and strife, and spends every waking hour in mirth and merriment. Humanity is described as a smaller, dimwitted, and more feeble version of current homo sapiens, and the difference between the appearance of the sexes almost completely gone. In their world of splendor, humanity has forgotten most negative emotions, although fear is very much a part of their life, as a result of the twisted species that their own negligence created. Forced underground by the graceful Eloi, the Morlocks are the workers who dwell in the darkness and return to the surface during the night, hunting the Eloi. The Time Traveller speculates that the Eloi forced them to work on machinery underground, and by adapting to the darkness of the caves, they became a different species of animal. For the first half of the story, the Time Traveller is fascinated with the lives of the Eloi, trying to learn their sweet-sounding language, and even making a close friend, Weena.
The Time Traveller’s foray into the lives of the Eloi sparks the question: what’s the purpose of a life without struggle? The Time Traveller, of course, has challenges of his own in trying to return to his own time period, and he learns much about the two races along the way. By the end, he finds that humanity has doomed itself through the desire to make life easier. But when the Traveller returns to tell the story to his friends, he is met with disbelief, despite the flowers he brings back as evidence. He sees this and doesn’t let their doubt make him falter in his conviction to continue whatever project he has planned with the time machine. In the end, the Time Traveller gathers some supplies and disappears for good on his machine. He may have ended up dead or mad, but it was clear that he went out into the unknown, determined to explore whatever he found. The Time Traveller’s determination reminds me of Walter Mitty, from the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
[Trying to withhold spoilers] The movie is about a man who abandons his normal life working for “Life” magazine to embark on a journey in search for a picture that will save his career. Along the way, he goes through challenges and experiences that few would believe, given his boring past. He succeeds in the end, but doesn’t return to his job, and doesn’t really tell anyone the full story of his experience or show pictures (he didn’t take any). Instead he takes a lesson from one of the people he met on the journey: to take in the moment, and truly enjoy it, without distractions. In watching the movie, Mitty reminded me of the Time Traveller, and his boss reminded me of the friends that doubt the story. Much like the Traveller, Mitty doesn’t care about the approval of his boss as much as he did before his life-changing journey. Taking himself out of the narrow view of his life in New York to obtain a more meaningful perspective, Mitty makes a change for the better. As indicated in the epilogue of The Time Traveller, the Traveller goes further in time, maybe seeking to improve humanity and avert our path to a feeble, unintelligent, and divided species. While the stories are different, both characters go through unbelievable adventures in an unlikely place, and find direction and purpose as a result, leaving behind their former lives.