Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife: Destiny

I wanted to explore some of the themes in The Time Traveller's Wife. Henry and Clare live in a universe that we're told is already written. Henry is a participator who observes but is unable to change things. He does change things by being there - coming out of the woods to get to know Clare - but is unable to re-write things and save his mother from death when he is six years old. We get the idea that people play a passive role in life, or at least one that is unaware of what is going on as events happen.

The circumstances around the beginning of Henry and Clare's sexual relationship and pregnancies suggest they are more able to know what is going on, as they effectively deceive the other. At the heart of the film we see Clare illustrate a doctrine of free will when she declines Henry's proposal, to see what it would feel like to exercise her freedom, before saying yes because her whole life has been about marrying Henry, why would she want anything else? Much like a Christian, no longer a slave to sin but a slave to Christ - free not to sin, free to live for Christ - why would a Christian want anything else...

Throughout death looms as the destiny of characters. We're shown a little of what it means for Henry to live knowing he will die. The reality is that we all live knowing we'll die, we just assume it wont happen to us. Henry has the advantage or curse of knowing when and to some extent how he will die in advance. This isn't the only thing he knows - and the same is true for Clare who knows of Henry before meeting him. His time travelling has given him many benefits - such as a whole lifetime of knowing a woman he only meets for the first time in his twenties, and the ability to cheat some circumstances, but it carries a curse like unexpectedly being away for two weeks over Christmas and turning up naked in the middle of winter. Does his destiny balance out for or against him?

We're asked whether we are victim or beneficiaries of our circumstances? Are we passively pushed around by our genetics and our circumstances, drawn again and again to certain people and places, or is life lived actively and deliberately? However involved or uninvolved the passage of time itself in The Time Traveller's Wife is unstoppable, Henry can take detours backwards and forwards but the clock keeps ticking, running from his mother's wintertime death, through the seasons back to his final winter night - with a sunnier postscript.

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