La Jetée and Tempunauts

              While watching the ending of “La Jetée,” I couldn’t help of thinking of “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.” The characters in each story experience a sort of time loop. In “La Jetée,” the man is forced to travel back in time after the destruction of World War III. As a child he witnesses a man being shot and killed. It later turns out that this event, is him witnessing his own death in the future. In a way, he will continue reliving these events of his life forever, because even though he is dead in that moment, his child self will keep growing up, traveling back in time, getting killed, and witnessing his death in this continuous cycle. This is very similar to the time loop seen in “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”

                In “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts,” the main characters choose to relive the same moments over and over as a way of seeking immortality.  The Tempunauts are able to cheat death by dying.  By manipulating the amount of weight in their time traveling device, they are killed and thrust into a time loop. Even after viewing their own funeral procession, they still choose to continue reliving the same few days . The man in “La Jetée” is forced to unknowingly live in a time loop. By the time he can even figure out that he is the man getting shot in his childhood memory, it is way too late to prevent his death. There is no way he can fix the mistake by warning his child self if he has no idea that it exists.

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Who would think that stepping on a butterfly could change completely change the English language, like illustrated in the two posters above? Before reading “A Sound of Thunder,” the idea seemed completely absurd. In the short story, by Ray Bradbury, people can pay to go back in time to hunt dinosaurs or any other prehistoric creatures to satisfy the ultimate hunting obsession.

The story starts out with the main character, Eckels, who wishes to hunt a dreaded Tyrannosaurus Rex, seeking out a company that has access to a time machine. The company, which is barely allowed to operate by the government, has a guide take the hunters back in time as long as they agree to stay on a narrow path that floats six inches above the earth in order to prevent “destroying an important link in a growing species.” The travel guide, Travis, that leads Eckels’ group on the expedition, explains this by using this lengthy example:

“‘All right,’ Travis continued, ‘say we accidentally kill one mouse here. That means all the future families of this one particular mouse are destroyed, right? Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam’s grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off (Bradbury)!”

This example is a bit extreme, but it gets you thinking about how fragile and complex time travel would be if it actually existed. I’m not going to give away the entire story, but Eckels ends up stepping off the path and accidentally kills a butterfly. To him, this doesn’t seem to be a huge deal, but once he and the other hunters return to the present, things seem to be different somehow. It’s not until they read the sign that was originally posted that they realize the affects of Eckels killing the butterfly. It is truly terrifying to think that something as simple as stepping on an insect can change the future in such a huge way.

(If you want to check out the story, it’s pretty short and very interesting!) http://www.lasalle.edu/~didio/courses/hon462/hon462_assets/sound_of_thunder.htm

“Time Traveler’s Wife”

             

Before I got into this time traveling literature class, I never put much thought into the complexities of time traveling.  When we started reading “Slaughterhouse- Five,” I noticed a few interesting similarities between the book and the movie “The Time Traveler’s Wife.”

In the “Time Traveler’s Wife,” the main character, Henry, began time traveling as a young boy. He has no control over when or where he time travels. It just….happens. The same thing sort of happens to Billy. Though he doesn’t physically disappear, like Henry, his mind travels to the different, important periods of his life.

In the movie, time traveling is treated as a genetic disease, in which there is no cure. While it doesn’t seem to be terminal, Henry eventually is killed, because he time travels to the wrong place at the wrong time. By doing so, Henry dies and ceases to time travel at the age in which he is killed.  Similarly, Billy Pilgrim ends up being killed because of his uncontrollable time traveling. Because of Billy time traveling, he and Weary become prisoners of war. When Weary dies, Lazzaro plans to avenge his death (which of course, the blame was put on Billy). In the end, Lazzaro has Billy killed.

A quote that is found in “Slaughterhouse-Five,” can be tied back in with what is going on in “The Time Traveler’s Wife”:

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at a funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist (pg. 26).”

When Henry time travels, he travels at his present age at the time. So, he is constantly time traveling at multiple different times. The younger versions of himself that are also time traveling don’t know all of the information that the older versions of himself know. This video is an example of younger Henry meeting Clare, who the older version of Henry met when she was a young child. Though she has known him most of her life, he has no idea who she is.         

Even after Henry dies, his past selves continue to travel through time. So even though he is long since dead, he still is able to meet with his daughter and wife. . So in a way, this case of time traveling equals immortality. This ties directly to the concept of the quote from  ” Slaughterhouse-five.” Even though Henry is dead in that moment and won’t continue to age any further,  he is not dead. He still continues to live on in his past, and his family’s future.