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By the year AD 802,701, humanity has evolved into two separate species: the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are the childlike, frail group, living a banal life of ease on the surface of the earth, while the Morlocks live underground, tending machinery and providing food, clothing and infrastructure for the Eloi. Each class evolved and degenerated from humans. The novel suggests that the separation of species may have been the result of a widening split between different social classes, a theme that reflects Wells's sociopolitical opinions.
The main difference from their earlier ruler-worker state is that, while the Morlocks continue to support the world's infrastructure and serve the Eloi, the Eloi have undergone significant physical and mental deterioration. Having solved all problems that required strength, intelligence, or virtue, they have slowly become dissolute and naive. They are described as being smaller than modern humans, having shoulder-length curly hair, chins that ran to a point, large eyes, small ears, and small mouths with bright red thin lips. They are of sub-human intelligence, though apparently intelligent enough to speak, as they have a primitive language. They do not perform much work, and in the book and 1960 film when Weena falls into the river, none of the Eloi help her.
While one initially has the impression that the Eloi people live a life of play and toil-less abundance, it is revealed that the Morlocks are attending to the Eloi's needs for the same reason a farmer tends cattle; the Morlocks use the Eloi for food. This explains why there are no old Eloi, and why they seem to fear the dark.
A portion of the book written for the New Review version, later published as a separate short story, reveals that a visit by the Time Traveler to the even further future results in his encountering rabbit-like hopping herbivores, apparently the descendants of the Eloi. They are described as being plantigrade (with longer hind legs) and tailless, being covered with straight greyish hair that "thickened about the head into a Skye terrier's mane", having human-like hands (described as fore feet) and having a roundish head with a projecting forehead and forward-looking eyes that were obscured by lank hair.
In the 1960 film version of the book, the Eloi are depicted as identical to modern humans, but all small and physically attractive, blond and blue-eyed. They are a placid and docile race, called "human vegetables" by the Time Traveller. They lack curiosity and appear devoid of human emotion. They have historical records, but have allowed them to become dust. The Morlocks use an air raid siren to get them into their caves, as in past eras when sirens were used to alert people to take cover in shelters. The Time Traveller motivates them to fight back and defeat the Morlocks, which they do by setting them on fire as the Morlocks seem unused to resistance. One of the Eloi is motivated to beat a Morlock to death when it attacks the Time Traveller; the same Eloi bravely shoves an attacking Morlock aside, showing they are not completely docile or helpless. In the 2002 movie adaptation of The Time Machine, the Eloi are depicted as identical to modern humans with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and appear to be an ethnic amalgamation of brown skin indigenous races. The former movie version depicts the Eloi speaking modern-day English, a fact which contradicts the original novel and the logical timeline of language evolution. In the latter film version, the Eloi maintain the English language as merely an intellectual exercise, calling it "the stone language," as they know of it only from surviving stone inscriptions from our time.
In Dan Simmons's Ilium novel, 'Eloi' is a nickname for the lazy, uneducated, and uncultured descendants of the human race after the post-humans have left Earth. The name is a reference to H. G. Wells's Eloi.
Old-style humans and post-humans rule in Simmons's novel, with the Eloi being kept in 'zoos' in restricted areas on Earth. The Eloi are technically adept but don't understand the technology; they regress and unlearn millennia of culture, thought and reason, until they are satisfied with the pleasure of merely existing.