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Time travel can be viewed as a child’s play. Being categorized as science fiction, the concept of this art has been universally known as the act of physically traveling to a different period and tends to involve some sort of transportation machine. Time travel was never seen as a realistic idea outside the realm of science fiction, let alone a strategy to write narratives with. However, as writers begin to explore new writing styles and techniques, they’ve found that incorporating time travel into narratives can be as simple as using it for storytelling to provide clearer transitions into different settings and build a more descriptive plot.
Taking this well-known concept of time travel and incorporating it into narratives have benefitted authors when it came to expressing their underlying message that they wanted to get across to their audiences. Overall, time travel should be considered a valid method for narrative storytelling and rhetorical persuasion because it helps readers understand the characters’ perspectives and thought processes throughout the narrative as well as the complicated storyline that is being told through the lens of the author. Through the fictional concept of time travel, it creates a bridge that connects complex plots that ultimately convey an overarching universal message for society to absorb. Time Travel narrative leaves an impact on society because it focuses on the consequences that come with change all while providing social commentary on society’s issues.
In “The Time Machine” H.G Wells anchors his narrative around the Time Traveller and his theory that time is the fourth dimension. To demonstrate this theory to those around him, he proceeds on sculpting a state-of-the-art time machine in which he travels to and from various locations. Following this narrative, the academic journal, “Shapes of the Past and Future: Darwin and the Narratology of Time Travel” was published to review “The Time Machine” by H.G Wells. Elana Gomel explains how time and the use of it gave the author a sense of agency in the narrative while allowing the audience to consider the concept that implications made about a timeline will not be sensitive to time itself.
In her academic journal, Gomel states “Time is the foundation of narrative; it is ‘that structure of existence that reaches language in narrativity while narrativity… is the language structure… Time… shapes… features of narrative as directionality, causality, and agency…Time travel enables agency…” Moving outside of “The Time Machine”, Gomel shows how time travel is essential to narratives because it closes gaps between stories. Using time travel in narratives can be as diverse as creating a sense of agency when having to jump between conflicting ideas among two characters, fostering a chain of causality that bridges together events happening at once, or gives the writer’s story a sense of direction. As complex as it is, incorporating time travel into one’s narrative gives the narrative structure. Whether the writer wants to include multiple settings or different events that occur within the same moment, he or she can do so because they are incorporating the idea of time travel. Although time travel isn’t being showcased as teleporting to those specific settings or events, it is shown by using transitioning terms for those moments, thus creating a cleaner, simpler structure that the audience will be able to understand all while integrating time travel into the narrative.
Time Travel doesn’t have to necessarily fall into these rigid categories. Not only can time travel be seen from a scientific point of view or as a strategy utilized in narratives to storytell clearly and concisely, but time travel is a way of thinking, especially to authors when it comes to writing their narrative and organizing their thoughts. In “Personal Notions of Time Travel,” Fiona J. Stirling reflects on what the concept of time travel is and how she viewed it as a contextual and narrative tool. In her academic journal reflection on love, loss, and growth, she states, “… the capability to transport a mind into the future is not a ridiculous fantasy. In fact, it is referred to… as mental time travel”. In her reflection, she notes that time travel is not something you do when you’re daydreaming or an idea that is thrown into science fiction, but a mental ability. When thinking about the past or future and how it correlates with the time you are currently in, that’s time traveling. With writing, using time travel in narratives is the ability to connect what had happened in the past, what will happen in the future, what this character is thinking, and what that character is doing all in one story that is comprehensible beyond the writer’s point of view.
Closing off “Personal Notions of Time Travel,” Stirling reflects on how she had just used time travel in that very journal to explain her reflection on love, loss, and growth in a seamless manner. She believes, “… in using the capacity of the brain to construct narratives from existing materials and predict alternative outcomes, there is the ability to travel to the past and create new, impossible moments.” This shows how time travel enhances narratives if anything. When using time travel, authors are allowed to share what had happened in the past and possibly make connections to the present or predictions in a causal chain of events without having to tell the entire story from beginning to end. Because of time travel, those chopped up segments of time make one seamless story.
In “Kindred”, Octavia E. Butler includes the “traditional” concept of time traveling that is normally classified as science fiction when Dana, the protagonist, is stuck going back and forth from 1976 to the 1800s in Maryland. By Butler illustrating the weary travels of Dana, it checks all the boxes for what the idea of time traveling was seen as which was moving from one period to another unknown location. In this case, Dana’s travels were involuntarily and out of her control. Through including time travel in her narrative, Octavia E. Butler was able to highlight the themes of displacement and free will versus predestination through the illustration of her protagonist being uprooted from her normal lifestyle to be transported back to a period where she was considered a slave with no rights.
In addition to incorporating actual time traveling, Butler also uses time travel in her narration when jumping around to different characters and their lifestyles whether they are a free slave, slave, white man, etc. There are multiple shifts in time in “Kindred” which can be seen as confusing at times, but help the readers truly understand the environment that Dana is being thrown in against her will. In “Kindred”, Octavia E. Butler was able to demonstrate that Time Travel helped bridge the gap between the two vastly different periods of slavery and interracial marriages. In this, “Kindred” consisted of conflicting characters with an opposing mindset on humanity and ways of living into one overarching commonality of love being that one was a male slave owner and a black woman currently living a free life married to a white husband. “Kindred” is a novel that displays how time travel should be a valid method in narratives because it helped the audience understand how the two diverse periods that Rufus and Dana live in could cause conflict, violence, and tension.
In “Introduction: Time Travel and the Mechanics of Narrative,” Wittenberg shares the idea that narratives are all-time machines because they allow the reader to travel mentally. In this, Wittenberg states, “time travel fiction directly represents on the level of straightforward content not only the processes by which narratives are formed but also the experimental conditions under which controlled narratological inquiry might take place … and be manipulated and malformed”. Despite his unnecessarily flowery and overly academic language, Wittenberg expresses how time travel can be seen as an advantaged when incorporated in narrative writings because authors are able to manipulate stories in order to hone in on what they what the readers to focus on. Time travel gives them a sense of flexibility when it comes to picking and choosing what parts of the writing add to the overall message and what sections must take away from the message and can act as a distraction. Overall, in his academic journal, Wittenberg claims that more attention should be paid to time travel stories because they are seen as a “lab” where ideas about humanity, time, narrative, and philosophy can be explored.
Time Travel can be meaningful and relevant in narratives because all shifts in time are considered a way of time travel through storytelling. Wittenberg believes that time travel makes use of improbable devices and paradoxes to share plots, topics, and/or themes with his or her audience. Blending time travel into narrative writing, it takes this broad unknown and mystical idea of time travel and uses it as a reasoning for basic revision of plot. Instead of using storytelling to explain time travel, the image of time traveling can be used to storytell more clearly and concisely that can be understood worldwide. Having a clear and concise story through the use of time travel will better ensure that the audience will receive the universal message that the author is trying to emphasis through their writing.
In ways, not many realize that time travel is used in almost every narrative ever written with or without intention. Just simply adding transitions, incorporating flashbacks, or skipping from event to event, that is considered time travel in a narrative sense. Authors are using time travel as a means of telling a more concise story because if they had to write a narrative without the privilege to skip a few days or even minutes, narratives would be longer than ever which will eventually lose the reader’s attention. By given the opportunity to write narratives leaving out every detail that goes hand in hand with time, authors are able to leave an important emphasis on their universal message and with all of the extra details out of the way, the audience would not be distracted and strayed away from what’s important, the author’s message.
Time Travel Narrative is a means of incorporating the author’s social commentary on society’s pressing issues. In addition to sharing a universal message or solution, including time travel into the mechanics of narratives allow authors to discuss a character’s identity, motivation, and potential displacement in the world they currently “belong” to. Time Travel Narratives aids the author in depicting who a character is in relation to other places, things, people, and beings in time. Using the concept of time travel in one’s writing, allows authors the flexibility of choosing what message he or she wants his or her audience to hear and retain by skipping information to the juice of the narrative, what really matters and what should the audience truly have their focus on.
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