Wells wrote The Time Machine during 1894 and 1895, and his fantasy reflects the concerns of his day. As a socialist sympathizer, and later a Fabian and reformer, Wells saw all around him the exploitation of the working class in the factories and mills of his time. They worked long hours, for starvation wages, living in appalling housing conditions. At the same time, the wealthy industrialists and leisured classes lead a life of pleasure and ease.
It is to expose this division in society which forms the satirical purpose of his novel. He extrapolates this situation of social injustice into the far future, the world of 802,700 AD.
In the world of the Eloi and the Morlocks, society has been divided into two new races, both degenerate and sub-human. The Eloi, the descendants of the leisured classes, have become child-like androgynous creatures, weak and unable to fend for themselves. Their lives of leisure are enjoyed only at the cost of premature death at the hands of the cannibalistic Morlocks. The Morlocks, the descendants of the working classes confined to subterranean factories long ago, have degenerated into troglodytes, still possessing some intellectual capacity, although their primal instincts drive them to emerge at night to prey on the hapless Eloi.
Wells's time traveller is filled with despair and a sense of futility. Is it for this that he has striven so long to build his time machine? Instead of wonderful advances in human knowledge and intellect, he instead finds decay and degeneration. The end of the novel sees the traveller standing on the shore of a dead sea, even further in the future. The scene is one of complete desolation and hopelessness. This, then, defines the future of the human race - decline, followed by extinction, on a dying planet.
Clearly, Wells' purpose is to give an implicit warning that, without major social reform, there will be little future for humanity. He suggests that with such reform, the bleak future may be replaced with something far more desirable.
A worthy message from a politically conscious author, to be sure, yet the subject matter of the novel begs further discussion in a somewhat different field, that of particle physics. For those who have not reviewed their physics since the last time they won a Nobel prize, a quick introduction to everything you ever wanted to know about quantum theory but were too afraid to ask is available.
The question as to whether Wells could change anything with his writings is rather intriguing. Although the free will debate has been exhausted googolplexes of times in philosophy classes, at philosophy departments and in philosophy theses around the world, few people have chosen to look at the debate from the viewpoint of quantum physics. What if time is an active player in the game? What if fate is not the lazy absolute it is always made out to be, but a dynamic entity which ensures that free will does the least damage possible?
If Bill Gates will one day take over the world, George Orwell has probably shown the most memorable effort to prevent such a future by writing 1984, although the theory supporting the existence of the three sisters of fate predicts that fate will somehow take care of Orwell and undo whatever damage he might have done, all in due time.
If that is the case, Wells alerting us to the dangers of a caste system in society will do little to prevent a future where his predictions have come true.