Friday, July 31, 2009

Time, Love, and Free Will

Time is a defining factor in love… the time you meet, the time you fall in love, the good times, the bad times, the time spent together, the time spent apart, the time spent longing and waiting. In The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Clare’s life is marked by the time she spends longing and waiting for Henry while his life, on the other hand, is marked by an inability to control his own time. Clare’s life follows its chronological sequence as Henry lives out his life like a Quentin Tarantino movie. However, the one constant that they each have is each other and I feel that the love story that develops because of this is beautiful and enchanting.

Time traveling... As a child of the ‘80s, I associate time travel with a wacky scientist, the flux capacitor, and a really cool car. Not only that, but changing the past can create alternate futures and interacting with yourself while time traveling can have detrimental consequences. Unlike typical time travel genres which include some kind of time travel vehicle, Niffenegger has developed her own, unique mythology for time travel that not only seems plausible but also makes you question the role of free will within time travel. By describing Henry’s ability to time travel as a disease that he cannot control, his free will is stripped from him which at times can be exhilarating. But once the initial novelty wears off, it is all too perilous. He can interact with himself in different time periods and is privy to information about his own and others’ past and future. But, what is it all worth?

This book made me reflect on my own life. Would I want to know the details of my future before living and experiencing them myself? Would knowing the outcomes of certain events help me prevent them from happening? Would it even be possible to change the course of one’s life if it’s already happened or predetermined? For me, the idea of time travel has always been intriguing and it was exciting to see it described in a whole new way. But, the most important theme of this book for me is the romantic notion that love can transcend time and exist beyond death.

What about you? Would you want the ability to time travel in the way that Niffenegger describes it? What would you do? Where would you want to go? Would you want to know more about your own life or experience it as it happens?

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