He has stumbled upon a bizarre civilization. One that is virtually unrecognizable from the past—namely that the fundamental principles that made up civilization have been eroded.
What the Future Holds
H.G. Wells uses his powerful imagination to not only create this futuristic society, but to predict the future of our civilization. His predictions are nothing short of stunning. In fact, many of the changes he predicted to occur hundreds of thousands of years in the future are already happening before our eyes, only a century after he wrote this novel.
Here are some of the differences H.G. Wells highlights:
Sex & Gender
With the feminization of men, and women becoming more masculine, traditional gender roles are disappearing. In fact, with the behavior by both sexes, men and women are becoming closer and closer.
In Wells’ future, the creatures are virtually indistinguishable by their sex:
Then, in a flash, I perceived that all had the same form of costume, the same soft hairless visage, and the same girlish rotundity of limb.
Interesting how they take on a girlish figure, as opposed to a masculine one.
Now, I saw the fact plainly enough. In costume, and in all the differences of texture and bearing that now mark off the sexes from each other, these people of the future were alike.
Man’s Domination of Nature
In the last few centuries, man has come to dominate nature. No longer are we averse to harsh weather, wild beasts, famines, or other obstacles. This has made us soft:
‘Seeing the ease and security in which these people were living, I felt that this close resemblance of the sexes was after all what one would expect; for the strength of a man and the softness of a woman, the institution of the family, and the differentiation of occupations are mere militant necessities of an age of physical force; where population is balanced and abundant, much childbearing becomes an evil rather than a blessing to the State; where violence comes but rarely and off-spring are secure, there is less necessity— indeed there is no necessity— for an efficient family, and the specialization of the sexes with reference to their children’s needs disappears. We see some beginnings of this even in our own time, and in this future age it was complete.
‘It seemed to me that I had happened upon humanity upon the wane. The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind. For the first time I began to realize an odd consequence of the social effort in which we are at present engaged. And yet, come to think, it is a logical consequence enough. 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.
What, unless biological science is a mass of errors, is the cause of human intelligence and vigour? Hardship and freedom: conditions under which the active, strong, and subtle survive and the weaker go to the wall; conditions that put a premium upon the loyal alliance of capable men, upon self-restraint, patience, and decision. And the institution of the family, and the emotions that arise therein, the fierce jealousy, the tenderness for offspring, parental self-devotion, all found their justification and support in the imminent dangers of the young. Now, where are these imminent dangers? There is a sentiment arising, and it will grow, against connubial jealousy, against fierce maternity, against passion of all sorts; unnecessary things now, and things that make us uncomfortable, savage survivals, discords in a refined and pleasant life.
Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions. ‘Under the new conditions of perfect comfort and security, that restless energy, that with us is strength, would become weakness. Even in our own time certain tendencies and desires, once necessary to survival, are a constant source of failure. Physical courage and the love of battle, for instance, are no great help— may even be hindrances— to a civilized man. And in a state of physical balance and security, power, intellectual as well as physical, would be out of place.
What happens when man, and society collectively, lack purpose? They tend to hedonism:
I saw was the outcome of the last surging of the now purposeless energy of mankind before it settled down into perfect harmony with the conditions under which it lived— the flourish of that triumph which began the last great peace. This has ever been the fate of energy in security; it takes to art and to eroticism, and then come languor and decay.
They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going.
Death of Morals
Because of this hedonistic mindset, helping others is anathema to their way of life. A shocking scene where one of the creatures is drowning, the time traveler notices that not a single person even attempts to help save its life:
when I tell you that none made the slightest attempt to rescue the weakly crying little thing which was drowning before their eyes.
Death of Culture
all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations, languages, literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew him, had been swept out of existence.
‘I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes— to come to this at last.
Not Just a Fantasy
Although I could have sworn there was a Time Machine movie that just came out, it looks like the most recent movie was 2002. Do you think Hollywood focused on these concepts?
When reading fiction, it’s best to try and extract lessons from the author. Although that is difficult among fiction writers today, it is certainly the case with fiction 50+ years ago.
Additionally, these predictions shouldn’t be a cause for panic. Instead, focus on how you can prevent them, at the very least within yourself.
Start by living with a purpose.
When you live with purpose, you won’t be susceptible to such degeneracy.
As for the book itself, the plot was actually quite good and entertaining. Wells is certainly a talented writer, and I recommend you read the book as it provides for some good before bed reading. And it’s only 100 pages.
Here is the free version on Kindle I read. Enjoy!