Our society craves an escape from life. When our tedious jobs bog us down, we escape into a hobby. When the responsibilities of school tire us, we escape in a vacation. When world affairs take a frightening turn of events, we escape in a good movie or absorbing book. There are countless distractions available to lighten our heavy minds and ease our anxieties. But it was not always as easy as it is today. What if distractions such as these were available only to a leisured class? What if the average person did not have the means to escape, even in small ways? This was the dilemma in late Victorian England. The people who needed and craved escape the most, the working and poor classes, could not achieve it. Industrialization had locked many of them into their subservient social positions, disallowing any means of even temporary escape from the harshness of Victorian life.
H.G. Wells' The Time Machine addresses this desire to escape. The unnamed Time Traveler himself does not necessarily have the desire to escape from Victorian life. He is wealthy and educated enough to spend his days creating a time machine to satisfy his desire to explore time. But escapism is addressed in his changing theories about the origin and nature of the Eloi and Morlocks, whom he encounters in his travels. Related to this theme of escape is the concept of progress not universally yielding good. The Time Machine speaks to the powerful late Victorian themes of escape and progress, painting a frightening picture of the dystopia that could result from the Victorians' ruthless exploitation of the working class during industrialization.
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