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Tune in tomorrow--Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel!

"I wake up in the hospital. Henry is there. The baby is dead."
--The Time Traveler's Wife, page 376

As I was reading through the first half of this book, I wondered how Audrey Niffenegger was going to keep suspense with this premise. Normally when you put time travel in a story, you can use it as a way to mess up the past or the future and then you have to try to fix it, a la the Back to the Future movies. But here, Henry acts as if the future is a predetermined thing that can't really be changed even if you voluntarily try to. That initially seemed boring to me. We know that Henry and Clare are going to meet and fall in love and get married, and it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of uncertainty that can keep the reader interested in finding out what's going to happen because it's all happened already. For instance, when they're trying to have a child, a Henry of the future tells Clare they're going to eventually have a child, so you would think that would completely kill the tension and suspense of "will they ever have a successful pregnancy?" But the quote I mentioned completely goes against your expectations; when you find out Clare's pregnant again after Henry tells her they have a child in the future and after he's already had a vasectomy, you think this is going to be successful. It completely takes you by surprise and makes you wonder if they really are going to have a child or if Henry was just lying or if they're going to adopt. When you find out that Clare's pregnant from a Henry of the past, you're like, "Ohhh!" But you still don't know if this pregnancy is still going to be successful or if there's some other unforeseen thing that's going to happen that twists your expectations. I think it's really cool how Niffenegger is able to use time travel as a way to build suspense. She lets you know that certain things are going to happen; you just don't know how they're going to happen. It's like when Batman and Robin got put in some horrible trap by a villain and at the end they tell you to tune in tomorrow to see what happens. You know they're not really going to kill off Batman and Robin; the interest is in how they're going to escape whatever ridiculous contraption the villain has put them in. I'm sure that show is exactly where Niffenegger learned everything she knows about maintaining suspense.

Comments (5)

Bizarrely enough, on Chesea's blog, I started to type a comment about the creative censorship of violence in the 1960s Batman -- they used the cartoon "Pow!" and "Bam!" animations to censor out the punches, thus making the show more family-friendly, while at the same time taking the opportunity to remind us of the dynamic visuals of comic books). But I deleted that comment because I didn't think your generation would know or care about that series.

Matt Henderson:

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! I love that show!! THAT is the definitive version of Batman for me. It's pretty much the reason why I wanted to be an actor and writer. Yeah, don't even get me started on that show.

Chelsie Bitner:

I thought the author's use of time-travel was amazing in this story. To be able to write about it and keep up with it was really neat to read and "watch" in a sense. I really liked how she would tell us things that were going to happen, but like you said, didn't tell us how or how soon or how far away and what would have to happen to get there. This book was probably my favorite so far.

Christopher Dufalla:

This is rather interesting. As I read this chapter, I too found myself thinking that this would be there successful child. I think that Matt phrased this technique very well. The audience's entire premise of a predictable time travelling experience is taken aback.

Henry takes a different approach to time travel and does not allow anything to truly come in the way of events...fate is fate. He is reticent about changing events, but als confused since he has been at so many different points in time that it's so difficult to pinpoint any one event that is disasterous to intervene with.

Alicia Campbell:

I did love this book. I never used to consider myself a love story type of reader, although I love the notebook. I also loved this book, but I cannot decide if that's because of the unusual element of time travel that was involved. I also thought the book was suspenseful because we would get hints about events from Clare's perspective. But since these events happened much later for Henry, we would get his perspective later. One particularly suspenseful example is when Clare describes hearing the shots and Henry calling her name. We are unaware of the significance of this event until the very end of the story.

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