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Temporal Perspective in Fiction Term Paper

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Updated: Sep 16th, 2022


For most of us, time is an organizing principle that comes into play in our daily lives. Time can be measured by standard intervals such as seconds, minutes, and hours (Reichenbach 24). In the past, present, and the future, events are noted or remembered based on the time of their occurrence. For centuries, scholars have been studying the aspects of time with the aim of incorporating its notion into respective measuring systems. In history, questions related to time have been thorny issues for most scientists and scholars. Ancient Greek studies reveal that Greek primeval philosophers focused a lot of their time analyzing the concepts of eternity, religion and time. At one time, Angelus Silesius, a Greek philosopher, believed that time could be suspended with the help of mental powers. This paper focuses on the perspectives of time in the following books Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, The Time and the Conways by JB Priestley, and The Dragon by Ray Bradbury.

At approximately 3500 B.C., it is alleged that the Sumerians had developed calendars. Historians believe that the Sumerians were the first human beings to develop calendars. Sumerian calendars consisted of twelve months. Each of these months comprised of thirty days. By 2600 B.C., the Egyptians had developed solar-based calendars (Wells & Patrick 12). Egyptians calendar comprised of 365 days. According to this calendar, a year commenced with the appearance of the Sirius star in the sky. The appearance of this star coincided with the flooding of River Nile. It should be noted that during the ancient time each society developed their own calendar based on their own understanding of the universe. As such, the number of days making up a week varied from one society to another and from one region to the other. The current 7-day week was adopted during the A.D. 200.

Perspective of time from the book Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

In her book Cat’s Eye, Atwood describes time as a dimension rather than a line (Atwood 1). From relativity theory, human beings can travel forth and back in time with the help of time machines. Using this concept, in his book, Atman personifies a character by the name Elaine. Elaine returns to her native city after 50 years. When she returns, the author notes, “In the city, she was impressed by the changes that had taken place since she was away” (Atwood 23). By taking the readers back in time through the character’s events and thoughts, Atwood was invoking the features of time that can be exploited by human beings through time travelling machines. Based on this, it is apparent that the author believes in the relativity theory.

In the book, the author portrayed a terrifying scenario where time is noted by demonstration of paper pumpkins and tulips (Atwood 34). From the scenario, the future was marked by feminine mysteries. Through this scenario, the author was illustrating the evolution of knowledge of time in the human history. During the ancient times, our ancestors relied on physical natural features such as the stars, sun, and the moon for their daily time keeping (Wells & Patrick 2). During these eras, the position of the heavenly bodies could be interpreted to tell the time of the day or year. For instance, our ancestors knew that it was daytime when the sun was directly positioned over their heads. On the other hand, they knew that it was nigh time when the sun disappeared in the west. Equally, our ancestors determined seasonal time by noting the moon cycles and the positions of the sun in the sky. As time passed by, our ancestors were capable to forecast time and seasons with accuracy. Over time, knowledge of time evolved leading to the development of the current calendars and the current time measuring tools.

Equally, Atwood suggests that if human beings can curve space they can also curve time. From the theory of relativity, he postulates that if humanity had super genius brains they could develop time machines that could enable them to travel faster than the speed of light. According to Atwood, these machines can enable us to travel forth and back in time. Through this concept, we can be able to exist in more than two places at a time. In the book, Atwood suggests that his brother who always wore a maroon sweater and spent a lot of time standing on his head inspired his thoughts about time. When Atwood inquired him for the reasons behind his behaviour, his brother informed him that his acts were meant to trigger a lot of blood into his brain for nourishment. Through this inquiry, his brother movement away from the vagueness of words inspired him.

In the book, Atwood describes time as possessing shape. To him, time was like an object he could visualize. He describes this object as a series of liquid transparencies lying on top of each other. Through this description, he postulated that an individual could not look back the length of water but rather down through it (Atwood 2). Based on the experiences covered in this book, it is apparent that Atwood perceived time to be an important facet in our lives. By taking the readers back and forth in time the lives of the characters in his book, he managed to illustrate the fictional thought of travelling in time postulated by most fictional writers and scientist during the 20th century.

Perspective of time from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

In this book, Woolf exposes the viewpoint on time that every individual should portray in his or her lives. According to her, if human beings could learn to live in their present lives and acknowledge it, we could be able to improve our present and the future lives. This implies that human beings have control over their present and their future time. In her book, Woolf acknowledges, “Human beings from ancient time have been fascinated by the facets of time” (Woolf & Francine 7). As such, she points out that earlier scholars of ancient Greek and Hebrew have been attempting to answer how human beings can adapt to survive longer than their usual lifetime. Through this, we learn that even our ancestors acknowledged that human being’s lifetime was short-lived, and that when compared with objects moving faster than the speed of light in the universe our lifetime is a flicker.

Through this book, we learn that human beings are consumers of time. For instance, time allows us to plan and guide our lives. In this regard, human activities are always bound by periods. For example, when a child is born, time will dictate when he or she will attend kindergarten school, primary school, high school, and higher learning institutions. Through this concept, we can deduce that human beings have the capabilities to be aware of the aspects of time. By analyzing the author’s writing style in this book, one will realize that she has most often used clocks to express her philosophical thoughts about time. Through her unique writing style, Woolf introduces the readers about the existence of mental time. The author believes that there exist two types of times. These types are the formal time and the mental time. The formal time is the usual time that we perceive from the positions of the sun and other heavenly bodies. On the other hand, mental time exists in our brains. Through the mental time, human beings can travel forth and back in time. The author through several illustrations emphasized that through dreams and thoughts people can go forth or back in time. Through the life of a persona named Clarissa, the author illustrates lifetime experiences of a person in a single day. This was possible by illustrating Clarissa’s events who through her mental time illustrated for the readers her past, present, and the future in a single day.

Throughout her book, Woolf emphasizes that time exists in distinct forms. These forms are time representation in the external world and time representation in the mental world. Her illustrations on loud and rushing civilization implies that our hopes to advance have made humans to continuously strive to progress in their daily activities. According to the author, the desire to progress has made us forget to appreciate the present moment. Just like Atwood, Virginia upholds time as a special facet of human life.

Perspective of time from the book The Time and the Conways by Priestley

J.W. Priestley wrote this play in the year 1937. In the play, Priestley focuses on the theory of time highlighting on its several concepts (Priestley 1). Throughout this play are several dramatic representations of the precariousness of the present, past and the future moments. All these aspects of time have been embodied through the characters employed by the authors in the play. During the year 1919, In the Conway Family house, Kay’s birthday was being celebrated. Her celebration came soon after the World War I ended. At the beginning of the play, the family is looking forward for a brighter future. However, in a twist of events the author introduces the readers into the glimpse of the family’s future. As such, the family’s future has not played out as expected by everyone in the family. For instance, all the families hope for a prosperous future turns sour in a twist of time. Through this episode, the author illustrated the contemporary aspects of time. Usually, human beings hope and dream of a prosperous future. However, these dreams are not always fulfilled as the time unfolds. Therefore, through this episode, we learn a very crucial aspect of time. We learn that the events of the future are often undetermined. From this episode, the author emphasizes on the need for human beings to appreciate their present time and stop worrying about the uncertainties of the future, as we have little control over their outputs.

Towards the end of this play, Priestley extraordinarily manipulates time by subverting the narrative. Through these stylistic devices, the author manages to take the audience and the readers back in time when the Conway Family planted seeds for a prosperous future. In the play, readers and audience should realize that the author employed the Dunne’s theories of time in his writings. As illustrated in the play, all aspects of time can take place at one instance. For instance, the author claims, “Human beings have the capability to traverse all the restrictions set by time” (Priestley 15). This can be achieved through pre-cognitive dreams. In general, Priestley believes that human beings can exist in two parallel states. To uncover these states, human beings have to rethink and reengineer their perspectives on time.

Perspective of time from the book The Dragon by Ray Bradbury

According to the author, the play revolves around individuals who set out on a journey to kill a dragon. The dragon described in the play is a huge terrifying animal with one eye. During their expedition, these individuals charged at the dragon and failed to kill it. Later readers and the audience learn that all the individuals on the failed mission died.

In the play, readers will realize that the terrifying dragon being referred to in this play is the train. Through this fictional story, the author illustrates that changes in time could have enormous repercussions in the future. For instance, technological changes, which occurred in the past have influenced and shaped our lives. During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, advancements in technologies created unique modes of perceiving time and space. Technological inventions such as telephones, wireless telegraph, and X-ray set up the foundation theory of relativity, cubism, and fictional time travelling novels. In science, Isaac Newton and Einstein are considered as the most prominent scholars who contributed to the science of time. Newton postulated how motion changes with time using mathematical equations. On the other hand, Einstein developed the theory of relativity. With the theory of relativity, Einstein proved to the world that time varies with motion. The two inventors’ contributions have influenced our current lives in a greater way.

The two knights described in the book embody our ancient human beings who existed before the industrial revolution. During their time, people used to depend on horses for their land transport. Similarly, these individuals used to believe in the existence of dragons. Therefore, the author through the concept of travelling back and forth in time has introduced train to medieval-time people. These people perceived train to be a huge one-eyed dragon and plan an expedition to kill it. To them the train was living deity. The two knights note, “He eats men travelling alone from our town to the next” (Bradbury 4). In the process of wrestling with the train, the two knights were killed. Through this story, the author introduces one of the most heated debates in metaphysics of travelling back in time. According to metaphysics, Bradbury’s concept of travelling forth and back in time is only possible if human beings could develop a way of curving and looping time. Similarly, through this book Bradbury invoked a controversial theory that asserts that if people travel back in time they can change or influence the occurrence of the present events.

Nature of time and causality in physics

In physics, the conceptual definition and understanding of time play major roles. According to Newtonian physics, time flows at a constant rate. On the other hand, relativity theory opposes Newtonian physics by asserting that time flow at different rates depending on the observer’s point of view (Kaku 12). As compared to Newtonian concepts, relativity theory provides scientists with crucial quantitative elucidations of fundamental aspects of time. Through the understanding of this theory, time has come to be intimately associated with space giving rise to a new analysis in science referred to as space-time studies. Presently, advancements in science have disapproved myths and fictions associated with time. Scientists have come up with concrete evidences that prove that time travel is possible. For instance, if an object travels with a speed higher than the speed of light it speeds ages.

Currently, scientists argue that time and space cannot be separated (Kaku 123). Based on these arguments, time can be incorporated into the fabric of space-time. By doing so, the theories of causality are violated through the generation of time like curves. In scientific studies, the causal theories have been the basis of developing physical theories. Therefore, if human beings are to develop time machines and other related paradoxes they should consider the issues of causality and relativity with caution.


Based on the above analysis, it is apparent that time has been reflected and assessed in history more than any other aspect of life. Over time, most people have ignored time disregarding it as a force or dimension in their lives (Greene 26). The above literatures assert that time is longer for the bored and brief for the most busy. This implies that our perspectives of time vary from one individual to the other. Therefore, if we have to comprehend it we must learn to appreciate the present. Currently, human beings are preoccupied with the need to progress in their lives. Out of this, we have never had time to reflect and appreciate the times of our lives. For instance, out of our hurries we take some of the wonders of the world for granted. We fail to acknowledge the rising of the sun, the changing seasons, the flowing of the rivers, and other physical occurrence in our lives that deserve our inner appreciations. Equally, through the above analysis on time, it should be noted that time has no intrinsic power other than to provide chances for other forces to come into play. Therefore, time can be described as a chronological structure in which things unfold. As such, time happens in the present, past and in the future. Hours, days, weeks, and years are just but instants arriving from the future and fading into the pasts. Unless we appreciate the aspects of time in our lives, time will always deny us the realities of our present lives (Greene 45). To some, time accelerates and to some it decelerates. However, in reality time has always moved at a constant rate.

In conclusion, human should acknowledge and treat time as a very important aspect of their lives. They should learn to accept the fact that their existence is short-lived. Through this, they should appreciate time in its present form. Given the fact that time influences our thoughts and actions, we should put every effort to be aware of these effects in our lives.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. Cat’s eye. New York: Doubleday, 1988. Print.

Bradbury, Ray. The dragon. Special limited ed. Round Top, N.Y.: B. Munster, 1988. Print.

Greene, B.. The fabric of the cosmos: space, time, and the texture of reality. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2004. Print.

Kaku, Michio. Physics of the impossible: a scientific exploration into the world of phasers , force fields, teleportation, and time travel. New York: Doubleday, 2008. Print.

Priestley, J. B.. Time and the Conways and other plays. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Eng.: Penguin Books, 2001. Print.

Reichenbach, Hans. The philosophy of space & time. New York: Dover Publications, 2004. Print.

Wells, H. G., and Patrick Parrinder. The time machine. London, England: Penguin Books, 2005. Print.

Woolf, Virginia, and Francine Prose. The Mrs. Dalloway reader. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003. Print.

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