Involuntary Time Travel (Supplemental Viewing)

For my supplemental viewing I re-watched The Time Traveler’s Wife. I know somebody else also did a blog post about this movie which included a great synopsis so if you aren’t familiar with the movie you can check that post out or you can go to this website. But before I actually start with an analysis I’d just like to say that, as is usually the case, if you haven’t read the book it is (in my humble opinion) much better than the movie, so if you’re interested you should check that out too!

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Chabon’s Female Characters

While we have only ready 8 chapters so far into The Yiddish Policemen’s Union something that has stuck out to me is the interesting nature of the female characters in this novel. I must admit that I know very little about Jewish lifestyle and practices, but what little bit I do know about it has led me to believe that Judaism is a primarily male led culture. I know this might be an outdated way view, but it is, however, the stereotype I came into the story with.

With that being said, I have really enjoyed reading the book and coming across these intensely strong women that have shaped the lives of those around them. The first woman we come across is Meyer Landsman’s own mother who pretty much dictated her husband’s life (“…she nudged and badgered and bullied him until he sat up straight, made eye contact when speaking, learned American, and wore dentures.”) and also worked her way up in the career world providing for her family where her husband could not.  Not much else has been said about her but we know enough to gather that this lady knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it.

The next significant female character is Landsman’s ex-wife, Bina Gelbfish. We meet her in Chapter 7 and learn that she also works with the District Police but has been promoted to Landsman’s boss, even if it is only temporarily. Bina is strictly business from the get-go even though she is in quite the awkward situation, what with working above her ex hubby now, and even Landsman realizes that this won’t be too different than working with his old male boss with the attitude she has. So far I have gotten the impression that Bina is a hard nosed and committed worker who is dedicated to her job.

I later started looking up the role that women play in Jewish society and there were multiple articles on the common misconception of females being less influential than their male counterparts. Women and men are viewed as completely equal and it is only those on the outside who tend to think of the men running the show. When I read that I started to think that maybe Michael Chabon is making a subtle statement addressing this issue in his book via these strong female presences.

Training the Population

While reading Kindred what I have found to be the most disturbing is Dana’s slow but steady acceptance of her place as a slave in her ancestors time. While I understand this is a strategic move of survival on her part, Dana (a modern day woman) easily allows herself to be treated like a slave and comes to see it as a normal day-to-day thing. At the beginning of “The Fight” when she is going to get help for Rufus she is even startled with herself when she realizes that she identifies the plantation as home for a split second.

I think one of the most important revelations that Dana has had so far in Kindred is in the last part of “The Fall” when her and Kevin are having a private discussion and she says “…I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.” The line continues to ring in my head as I progress through the novel as we see Dana take on more work loads like she really is owned by this family.

This makes me think of the concept of the slippery slope and how easily society as a whole can allow itself to be trained into embracing morally and ethically wrong acts- during the pre Civil War time it was obviously human bondage. And while I have no idea how the rest of the novel will progress, right now my biggest question is how all this time she is spending in such an oppressive environment is going to influence her once she is back in modern times? Being treated as a non-entity and then shuttled forward years to being treated like a real human being has got to play a role on one’s self worth and personality.

Stuck in Time

One of the phrases that Kurt Vonnegut strategically uses throughout Slaughterhouse Five is “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” He chooses this sentence to set the stage for the rest of the story. If he had written that “Billy Pilgrim has started to time travel” our view of the story would have immediately been different. We would have, whether consciously or not, judged the book to be a science fiction novel. And as we have already read an article on Vonnegut’s distaste for being stereotyped as a science fiction writer, we can understand his choice of words here.

By using “unstuck in time” he starts to alter the reader’s concept of time. When I first read the line, what came to my mind was that if Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time, that must mean that the rest of us are stuck in time. This phrase reveals that Billy doesn’t go looking for time travel, but unknowingly stumbles upon it, and for that matter, that it isn’t even time travel. It’s more of a continuous flow. Sometimes he’s in the present and then wakes up and is in another time. Just like the Tralfamadorian thought on time, they see all time, unlike our limited view on it. Billy Pilgrim overcomes our “stuck” mentality on time by being able to flow through all of his own life.

You Only Live Once…Literally.

Out of everything we have covered so far in class, the reading of Chuck Klosterman’s is what has captivated my attention the most. In The Time Machine, “Rip Van Winkle,” and Primer the possibility of time travel and how it occurs is the main focus, obviously. But I enjoyed that our first reading was an essay on the impossibility of time travel and detailed explanations on its futility.

Within the first paragraph Klosterman makes the statement that “the impossibility of time travel is a cornerstone of reality,” and when you take a minute to consider this short thesis you realize how absurdly simple yet accurate it is. As human beings what identifies us is our individual personalities, quirks, and overall uniqueness; knowing that nowhere in the world is there another you. If anybody were able to control and manipulate time travel to the recent past or future, it would result in some person being in the same time and place as their past or future self. Klosterman discusses in more detail the problems with existing simultaneously with another self when he is analyzing Primer and the effects that the body doubles have on Abe and Aaron, if you wanna go back and read that section. He, once again, is able to summarize the situation simply by, “If you exist in two places, you don’t exist at all.”

Sorry Drake, you’re not real anymore.

I know I haven’t brought any new material to the table (blog), but this dilemma is what I think would be the most challenging and disconcerting aspect of time travel. Also on a completely different tangent, while Googling “Chuck Klosterman” I came across this game that seemed like a good time. Or a headache.