The Time Traveller is a Victorian Everyman

A Victorian Everyman is meant to be a smart, middle-class man who will think about things such as politics and global considerations such as colonialism. However, if he did think in this way he would follow and express the values of a Victorian Everyman and Victoria society. He could contradict the system and think the pros and cons of it, but he would not think about any negative aspects as that would not be the way in which a Victorian Everyman would think. The question perceives that the Victorian Everyman would follow the society’s expectations to the letter.

The question also asks and states that he embodies the values of Victorian society in everything. I feel that he does not embody all values in everything he does, for instance, he is not a religious man and prefers his science. In addition at the beginning of the novel the Time Traveller does have the traits of a Victorian Everyman in which he agrees with the social hierarchy however, as the novel progresses he changes his views as a result of his experiences. A Victorian Everyman would agree with the social system and would defend it if it was opposed. If the Time Traveller does embody the Victorian society, he would support all aspects of the ethos.

What are the values that are so valuable that they are part of the Victorian Society? And are they part of the Victorian Everyman that the Time Traveller is meant to be?

There is much evidence to contradict that he is a Victorian Everyman; I could say that his scientific views are stronger that his religious views by the very fact that he is building a Time Machine. To take the question from all angles, you have to look at everything he does or has done and how he feels for example, political and religious views, his emotions, attitude and past.

It is important to also explore the context of the time in which the Time Traveller and the author lived. The religion at the time and the scientific knowledge support both sides of the argument, for example a Victorian Everyman would have been bonded to religion but would have promoted science on the basis of furthering knowledge. However, the Time Traveller did not believe in religion in the traditional sense – science was his religion. This is also shown by the fact that there was no-one of religious profession at the meeting described at the beginning of the novel, just men of science including the Medical Man and a man of non-religious views as an editor.

H.G.Wells reflected his own time, the ‘Golden Age,’ in the novel; that must have influenced H.G.Wells and the Time Traveller in their attitudes because in the Golden Age, science was progressing as far as it could go and indeed further as illustrated by the fact that the Time Traveller was building a Time Machine. The Victorian Everyman would have supported the progression of Science. Also, because of the Golden Age, the workers at the time were under increasing pressure, for little pay, to manufacture the goods that were in demand. This influenced the disapproving attitude that H.G.Wells and the Time Traveller showed in communism.

Class distinction is also shown in the Golden Age, for example the distinctions between the Morlocks and the Eloi are made to emphasis what would happen to Victorian Society of it carried on the way it is going – to the point that the race would split. This shows that the Time Traveller is not a Victorian Everyman as he would have disapproved of the social split; a Victorian Everyman would have approved of the division and would not have questioned it.

Women in this age were not seen to be important as shown at the start of the novel, for example, there were no women included in the meeting making you perceive that the Time Traveller is a Victorian Everyman because of this group. However, that is contradicted by the author making Weena, a small female, one of the main characters in the novel. The Time Traveller wants to protect Weena because she is small and fragile for example, he does not want her to enter the caves with him and later in the novel he picks Weena up, grabs a weapon to protect them both and tries to get out of the caves. The Time Traveller is representing the values of the Victorian Everyman in the way he tries to protect the only woman in the novel.

The Victorian Everyman is shattered by his quest for knowledge. For instance the Time Traveller is a Victorian Everyman at the beginning of the novel in some ways as described earlier, however, this is put aside by his adventure and quest for knowledge in the future and the trouble he goes through. For example, you can drawn a similarity between Prometheus’s Fire and how it is abused and then destroys things and the situation in which the Time Traveller finds himself because he tries to get God like powers through the development of the Time Machine, this changes him dramatically and therefore leaves his Victorian Everyman views and beliefs behind.

The structure and narrative style chosen by H.G Wells is another aspect which should be considered as it impacts the way in which the character is portrayed and the story is told. Through the use of his particular styles the author develops the Time Traveller’s character and illustrates the changes in attitude resulting from time travel itself.

The opening of the novel sees the Time Traveller in a domestic setting to ensure the reader is comfortable within the Victorian era, understands the lifestyle and position of the Victorian Everyman and provides intrigue with regard to the juxtaposition of domesticity alongside the time travel which the reader knows is to come. The domestic setting also provides a base for the sci-fi element of the book, linking it to a defined period within history.

The domestic setting provides a backdrop for the Time Traveller to tell his story, like a Grandfather telling his young grandchildren about his amazing adventure. It suggests that the Time Traveller is wiser than his peers following his experiences and, in the same way that a child would use his full imagination when listening to a story, it invites the reader and the Time Travellers peer’s to indulge in the exploits of the Time Traveller without limiting themselves in the way that a Victoria Everyman would. Because of this, it also reinforces the fact that the Time Traveller’s perspective has changed and he is no longer a Victorian Everyman – he recognises that what he is telling his peers is potentially absurd and if he were a Victorian Everyman, he would not continue with this train of thought.

As the Time Traveller begins his journey and finds himself in an unnamed location which is almost too perfect this utopian vision highlights the Time Traveller’s view of the Victorian Everyman. Given the perfect nature of this environment, it reinforces how the Time Traveller, as a Victorian Everyman would think, for example, he assumes that the Eloi must be very intelligent, perhaps more intelligent than humans, as they have created this perfect world.

The presentation of the perfect world creates a mirage to hide the underlying mystery of the Morlocks and can be seen to represent the hierarchy of Victorian society which underpins the Victorian Everyman’s way of thinking. The representation of the Morlocks as the underclass, living physically underneath the Eloi, draws a parallel to the Victorian domestic setting where the Victorian Everyman lives above-stairs and the servants live below-stairs. This aspect of the structure provides the backdrop for the Time Traveller to begin to question himself and his Victorian Everyman beliefs. He states, ‘And now I understood to some slight degree at least the reason of the fear of the little Upperworld People of the dark.’ This suggests that he is uncomfortable with all aspects of Victorian social hierarchy.

The conflict with the Morlocks develops this theme further and is a physical representation of the fight within the Time Traveller himself. The Time Traveller is questioning all aspects of the society in which he has gown up and from which all of his beliefs are founded. This is a period of serious realisation. Almost a release of what the Time Traveller has suppressed. He has always has the ability to question Victorian society but as an Everyman has chosen not to do so. At this stage in the novel he cannot avoid it any longer.

Considering the novel as a whole, the serialisation of the original work impacted the way in which H.G.Wells delivered the story. Because it was serialised each aspect of the novel had to be developed to quite a degree of detail to allow the reader to make immediate sense of it and draw them to the next instalment. H.G.Wells created a sense of urgency through the novel’s structure which makes the reader question what will happen next.

Looking at the final aspect of the novel where the Time Traveller does not return, I believe that this could be interpreted in many ways. Does it mean that the Time Traveller, as a Victorian Everyman, was following his quest for knowledge or does it mean that he was trying to hide his new-found knowledge and protect others from what he had discovered. Or did he not want to share his knowledge with others and so remain superior. Depending upon which interpretation is taken each has an impact on the representation of the Time Traveller as a Victorian Everyman and reinforces the changing nature of the Time Traveller’s development and attitude towards the Victorian Society.

The narrative within the novel affects the way the Time Traveller is represented because it provides different perspectives of the same story and supports the structure of the story. Initially the novel is written in the third-person, an anonymous character depicting the events. By using an anonymous character, the reader can not assume that the narrator has any particular feelings or bias towards the Time Traveller and his actions because his relationship to the Time Traveller is not known. For example, he could be a close friend, a relative, a colleague or opponent and each would have a different perspective dependent upon their relationship. Therefore the reader has to develop their own perspective and by doing so is drawn into the novel. The use of the third person makes the reader feel included, as if they are also in the room with the group.

At the point at which the adventure is over, the author allows the Time Traveller to take over the narration and the story is told in the first-person. This has the effect of making the story more realistic as the reader is seeing the Time Traveller’s perspective including all of his feelings and thoughts. Through this narration the Time Traveller reveals his point of view and therefore allows the reader to make judgement on these views and how it depicts him as a Victorian Everyman – or not.

There may be an expectation that the Time Traveller, throughout the novel, would develop a perspective which opposes many aspects that the Victorian Everyman would embrace. However, whilst the Time Traveller does develop his perspective and explores concepts that the Victorian Everyman would disagree with, he retains certain elements of the Victorian Everyman throughout his experiences.

For example, the Time Traveller states ‘now I felt like a beast in a trap, whose enemy would come upon him soon.’ By using this text the author shows the different emotions and feelings of the Time Traveller as he struggles against himself, trying to come to terms with the fact that he no longer wholly believes the principles by which he has lived for so long. The beast is the author’s representation of the thoughts that the Time Traveller has against the Victorian social hierarchy, the trap is the expectation of the Victorian Everyman and the enemy is the Victorian social hierarchy itself.

I feel that the use of the noun ‘beast’ is emotive; it is in direct opposition with the way in which a Victoria Everyman would behave. A beast in a cage would be wild, aggressive and fearsome – a Victorian Everyman would never let his true feelings be shown as that would be unacceptable in Victorian Society.

The use of the noun ‘enemy’ instead of a certain person or object is intelligent because it makes the reader think about what or who the enemy is, for instance the social hierarchy that the Time Traveller has to go back to when he leaves or the Morlocks that are a representation of the problems of his time or indeed himself in how he is coming to terms with his society and its problems.

Another aspect that is interesting that it is not known what the trap or the beast represents and if it really is trapped. For example could the trap be his Victorian everyman thoughts and the beast could be his opposing thoughts trying to be recognised and be heard, and the whole thing is a battle between them. Could it be that nothing is trapped just being suppressed.

Another example would be ‘the art of fire making has been forgotten on earth. The red tongues that went licking up may heap of wood were an altogether new strange thing to Weena.’ This shows that the Time Traveller is surprised and thinks that he is more intelligent because he knows the art of fire making. The phrase ‘the art of fire making’ suggests that it is a upper class knowledge because it is a art which would be considered sophisticated.

Fire is an element. Calling the making of it an art suggest that it is a controlled thing therefore making the Time Traveller seem like a god because he is controlling a element which only a god can do.

The phrase ‘forgotten on earth’ makes the earth seem like it has lost its greatness and is no longer powerful simply weak. This can be linked to the controlling element of the Time Traveller and how a Victorian everyman is a person who wants to be controlling.

The phrase ‘red tongues’ is a powerful phrase because the colour red is a strong colour, the colour of blood and used next to the word tongues, make tongues sound more powerful because a tongue controls the art of speech and is a powerful tool. This can also be linked to the controlling element of the Time Traveller.

Personification is used in the quote to describe and create an aura around the fire and how amazing it is. The personification is ‘the red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood’.

The phrase ‘was an altogether new and strange thing to Weena’ this shows that the once thought highly intelligent race do not have knowledge of a basic and simple art. Also it could show that the Time Traveller has a sense of pleasure in showing her the skill because he is fond of her. This could make him seem less of an Everyman because he is with a female showing her respect, and because he is with someone of lower intelligence showing them a worthy skill.

In further consideration of the Time Traveller’s state of mind, the phrase ‘the enemy I dreaded may surprise you’ shows inner meaning. The Time Traveller, as discussed previously, is in turmoil about his beliefs. The enemy referred to is more likely to be the Victorian society and hierarchy that the Time Traveller would be condemned to on his return rather than the new races he his confronted with during his time travel.

The Time Traveller, in this next quote, could be seen to be the total opposite to the Victorian Everyman. ‘The sudden realisation of my ignorance of their ways of thinking and doing came home to me very vividly in the darkness.’ This shows that the Time Traveller is not a Victorian Everyman because a Victorian Everyman would never admit his ignorance in anything and, because he realises this in darkness, it shows that he can only think of his ways as wrong when things are at their worst.

My last quote shows how the Time Traveller feels in two different societies. ‘I fancied I heard the breathing of a crowd of those dreadful little beings around me.’ This could show that he is being shepherded along with a crowd that he detests and cannot escape and that they are still closing in. This represents the Time Traveller’s confused state of mind; whilst travelling he does not need to conform to a given agenda, he will be judged by no-one. However, should he go back to Victorian times he would lose his freedom and would have to conform. The use of the personification ‘breathing of a crowd,’ suggests oppression and fear as the people surrounding him are closing in.

From my explorations I have gathered enough information to make an argument for both sides of the question ‘To what extent is the Time Traveller a Victorian Everyman.’

I have looked at the context in arguments such as the science vs. religion. In the narrative/structure I have looked at first person and third person and events of the novel. Also I have looked at the language and how the Time Traveller expresses himself in ordered to fully consider my conclusion. The evidence that I have highlighted considers the struggle that the Time Traveller has had with his own conscience and exploration of his beliefs. In many instances he did represent himself as a Victorian Everyman however, whether he embodies Victorian society in every word and deed has been shown to be untrue. From all of these sections and explorations I have concluded, therefore, that the Time Traveller has no absolute alignment to all Victorian values; he switches from one to another in different situations. I do not believe that he is a Victorian Everyman but equally he does not embody total opposition to the Victorian values.

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