In Character

Perched on an armchair, the lamp coaxes me to lean into the crook of the wall, and I sink effortlessly into a book.

That’s never been me.

Seldom, I am able to delve into a good novel. Most of my reading is academic-based—an asphyxiation of my desire to read. However, every now and then, an enthralling book arouses my interests, igniting sessions of incessant reading.

Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is a work of literature that did just that. She draws on every sense and doesn’t let go. I have always wanted my writing to be that compelling, but I feel as if it always falls—well, more than—short. One day, I hope my writing parallels hers insofar as possible.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger gives the reader two vantage points: Claire and Henry, a couple who go through the ups and downs of Henry’s spontaneous, involuntary time travel. The author employs two distinct tones for the characters, and you are able to see life through their eyes. You live how the same event can inflict asymmetrical types and levels of pain to each character—and you.

Clare speaking of Henry’s time travel: “It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”

Henry’s sentiments towards time travel: “When I am out there, in time, I am inverted, changed into a desperate version of myself. I become a thief, a vagrant, an animal who runs and hides. I startle old women and amaze children. I am a trick, an allusion of the highest order, so incredible that I am actually true.”

This technique is not groundbreaking, but it does not always foster the same effect.

Niffenegger’s use of this technique is efficacious for one reason—her word usage and sentence structure. She is able to describe something sans overelaboration. She doesn’t need, or aim, to tell you every aspect of an object in the room or the environment the character is in. She lets the characters set the mood, not the environment around them.

In essence, I find Niffenegger’s style of writing enthralling and brilliant. She puts you inside the character and imprisons you. It’s a stirring experience that I hope I can impart on someone someday.

Joseph Elliott

Hello, my name is Joseph Elliott, and I am a student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, obtaining a Minor in Writing.

Leave a Reply