H. G. Wells leaves the main character of his novel The Time Machine without a name. The two times that he would have given a name, it was replaced with underlines. Why would he do this?

  • 9
    Tricks like this were often done to give the impression that it was a true story, and that the names of the people concerned were redacted away (rather than being replaced with made up names like we do today in true stories).
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 10, 2015 at 7:05
  • @MrLister Ray Cummings, perhaps imitating Wells, did something like that in writing The Girl in the Golden Atom: the protagonist is the Chemist, and he recounts his adventures to his friends the Doctor, the Very Young Man, the Banker, and the Big Business Man.
    – user14111
    Dec 10, 2015 at 8:06
  • Perhaps because in a sense it was the absolute most important aspect of him, that he was a time traveler, more important than some name or regular title. This was a title of such singular distinction that class conscious Victorian England could do no less than refer to him solely by his title.
    – Broklynite
    Dec 10, 2015 at 8:14
  • Note that the officially authorized sequel Time Ships by Stephen Baxter does give a name for character towards the end (I won't spoil it here, though), and even a reason as to why he (the character) avoided its mentioning
    – Zommuter
    Dec 10, 2015 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


As has been mentioned in comments, this is common practice in fiction from that time.

This is not the only work of H.G.Wells to use the practice, for example The Man Who Could Work Miracles.

Many works of Edgar Allen Poe use the same trick. Particularly for characters peripheral to the story. Examples include The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall.

H.Rider Haggard uses the trick in She when referring to characters other than those actually on the journey to find Ayesha.

The practice is especially common in short stories and of works initially published in a magazine. Again, as @Mr.Lister put in his comment, this gave the impression of protecting the identity of people. Magazines often did this in real stories to avoid any risk of libel suits.

  • 2
    I've seen the same thing done with dates in works of the time.
    – pixelmeow
    Dec 10, 2015 at 19:06

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