The Power of Point of View

The peculiar narrative structure of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, is perhaps a tool meant to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the time traveler’s story. The majority of the story recounts the experiences of the time traveller as he travels to 802, 701 A.D., but it is filtered through the perception of one of the men listening. This technique allows readers to follow the character of the time traveler closely without receiving an account of the events as they actually happen. As readers, we get a look into his consciousness just for the duration of his journey into the future, but we never know the workings of his mind before or after this trip. Once he returns to the present time, we are driven out of his perspective into the suspicious atmosphere of his audience. Perhaps this removal from his point of view is meant to question his character and story. The narrator even notes, before we start the journey, that he “was one of those men who are too clever to be believed” (12). Readers forget this warning once the time traveler begins his narrative, for we are distracted both by the content of what happens as well as the suspense of his account. In fact, the editor, after the time traveler finishes his tale, remarks that it is a shame that the time traveler doesn’t write stories for a living. If we, as readers, weren’t meant to doubt the authenticity of his tale, then we would have experienced his travels from his own perspective as he himself experienced them. Instead, though, the story ends with us closed off from the time traveler and inhabiting the mind of someone who is not sure how to understand the time traveler’s claims.

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