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Analyzing Harlan Ellison's “Repent Harlequin! said the Ticktockman”

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adam webb

on 9 April 2012

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Transcript of Analyzing Harlan Ellison's “Repent Harlequin! said the Ticktockman”

Analyzing Harlan Ellison's “Repent Harlequin! said the Ticktockman”
Image retrieved from: http://www.fanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/11-Don-Ivan-Punchatz.jpg, 2012
The author: Harlan Ellison

Written in 1965 and published in
Galaxy magazine

Won the Nebula Award in 1965 and the
Hugo Award for best short story in 1966
The main characters

Harlequin, Everett C. Marm, who is somewhat of a social reject because he is habitually late for work. He is "a man with no sense of time." He is critical of the system in which he lives

The Ticktockman, who is the Master Timekeeper and the "time warden" of sorts over the future dystopian, urban city in which they live

Everett's girlfriend, Alice, who is at odds with Everett's behavior at "playing" the role of Harlequin and causing havoc within the Ticktockman's perfectly running system
The setting
: A dystopian, urban future where people's lives are measured by time. Time is the precious "currency."
The theme
: The theme of the story questions authority and the possible consequences that might happen if an individual goes to far in his/her fighting or resisting the system.
The writing style and tone
: The story is told in a nonlinear fashion and the tone is cynical. At times, the tone can be serious. Ellison employs an omniscient narrator.
What is the significance of the passage from Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience?"
Ellison's narrator tells the readers that he is going to start in the middle of the story, work his way to the beginning and then the end. Why does the narrator do this?
Ellison's narrator describes the Harlequin as a "personality." Why do you think the Ticktockman would despise a "personality" such as the Harlequin?
How is the "jelly bean" scene significant to the story's overall theme?
How are the "cardioplates" significant in the story?
What is the significance of this passage from the story?

"It becomes a sin. Then a crime. Then a crime punishable by this:
EFFECTIVE 15 JULY 2389, 12:00:00 midnight, the office of the
Master Timekeeper will require all citizens to submit their
time-cards and cardioplates for processing. In accordance
with Statute 555-7-SGH-999 governing the revocation of time
per capita, all cardioplates will be keyed to the individual
holder and What they had done, was devise a method of
curtailing the amount of life a person could have. If he was
ten minutes late, he lost ten minutes of his life. An hour was
proportionately worth more revocation. If someone was
consistently tardy, he might find himself, on a Sunday night,
receiving a communiqué from the Master Timekeeper that
his time had run out, and he would be 'turned off' at
noon on Monday, please straighten your affairs, sir."
Marshall Delahanty's story - he was late too often and the Ticktockman revokes his cardioplate ... perhaps Ellison's narrator gives the readers this example to show how powerful the Ticktockman is and what could actually happen to Everett if the Ticktockman ever found out that he is the Harlequin.
Everett gets captured. His girlfriend, Alice, turns him in.
The Ticktockman argues to Everett that "not everyone is unhappy in the system" and calls Everett a "non-conformist ."
Everett tells the Ticktockman,
"Get stuffed."
Everett tells the Ticktockman that being late did not use to be a "felony." The Ticktockman responds, "It is now. Live in the world around you." What is the Ticktockman suggesting in this phrase?
The Ticktockman is trying to "break" Everett and use him as an example.
Everett is sent to "Coventry." Once there, Ellison's narrator cites George Orwell's book, 1984, and says that what was done to Winston Smith in that story is somewhat done to Everett ... "the ancient techniques..." does this suggest that Everett was tortured? Possibly.
Everett appears as the Harlequin on the communications web with the message that the system really does work and "it doesn't pay to fight city hall, or in this case, the Ticktockman."
The narrator says, "Marm was destroyed, which was a loss, because of what Thoreau said earlier, but you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and in every revolution, a few die who shouldn't, but they have to, because that's the way it happens, and if you make only a little change, then it seems to be worthwhile."
"Or, to make the point lucidly:"
What is the significance of this scene?

"'Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don't know how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes
late. The schedule is a , little, uh, bit off.'"

"He grinned sheepishly."

"'That's ridiculous!' murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. 'Check your watch.' And then
he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee.'"
What does this final passage from the story suggest? That one person can make a difference in their world?
Full transcript