The time machine

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H. G. Wells's classic novel The Time Machine, first published in 1895, is one part fairy tale, one part love story, one part science fiction, and one part utopia. Readers can enjoy the story on multiple levels and take away something unique to themselves upon finishing the novel. With every turn of the page, we become as little children being read a good night story; for in effect, we are being read to rather than reading ourselves. The story is told through an unnamed narrator, a young member of an informal group of men who meet occasionally at the Time Traveler's house for dinner, drinks, cigars, and conversation. It is no accident that the narrator who tells us the story is the least skeptical, indeed the most credulous of the group, in response to the Time Traveler's claim to have built a Time Machine. We need an optimistic and trusting narrator, for he represents the audacity of hope, the possibility of human endeavor leading to improvement and progress, at a time when the specter of social Darwinism and scientific fatalism had fallen over the western world. The narrator is the one who exclaims, in response to the prospect of traveling into the future, "To discover a society erected on a strictly communistic basis." As humorous and naive as such a statement sounds to us today, communism was a synonym for utopia in the late nineteenth century. And so we are supposed to identify with the narrator, to suspend our disbelief in the absurd hypothesis of time as the fourth dimension and the fantastical invention of a time machine. During the time when we submit to the power of the story and allow ourselves to be swept away by the fantasy, time machine does exist and time travel is possible.

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