The Time Machine - a Social Critique

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Mischel Figusch

About The Time Machine:
"The Time Machine" is primarily a social critique of H.G. Wells's Victorian England projected into the distant future. Wells was a Socialist for most of his life with Communist leanings, and he argued in both his novels and non-fiction works that capitalism was one of the great ills of modern society. Rapid growth in technology, education, and capital had launched the Industrial Revolution in the 17th- and 18th-centuries, and by the late 19th-century of "The Time Traveler," England was a leading force in the new economy: while industrialists reveled in their unbounded wealth, droves of men, women, and young children toiled long hours for meager wages in dirty, smoke-filled factories. While Charles Dickens won sympathy for the poor by sentimentally depicting their struggle, Wells chose to incorporate a number of scientific--both natural and social--ideas in his argument against capitalism. Wells's major target is the often elitist branch of evolution, Social Darwinism. In "Origin of the Species," Charles Darwin argued that different environments encouraged the reproduction of those species whose varying traits best suited them to survive; their offspring, in turn, would be better adapted for the new environment, as would their offspring, and so on. Social Darwinism, developed by British philosopher Herbert Spencer, frequently misapplied this concept of "natural selection" to justify 19th-century social stratification between the rich and poor. The catch-phrase "survival of the fittest" (actually coined by Spencer, not Darwin; Spencer also popularized the term "evolution") does not mean the surviving members of an environment are the "best," but merely the best fit for their specific environment (for instance, Spencer's pale British skin would not survive long in sun-baked Africa). Therefore, evolution does not lead to the "perfectibility" of any species, as is generally perceived, but to the increasing adaptability and...
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