Harlan Ellison “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (1965)
Ellison’s character, Harlequin, is a prankster, but he’s also a saboteur. His name most likely is an allegory of Harlequin the servant in the Commedia dell’arte (Italian Theater in the 16th Century). He tries to throw citizens off the clock, so the government can’t function properly. Everything in this projected world is arranged around time–very specific attention to time. Does Harlequin change the world?
Let’s consider the term pragmatic. Being pragmatic means going about a change in slow deliberate fashion, often full of compromise. Quick, radical change can be scary for people, so pragmatism would suggest going slowly and implementing minor or subtle changes. Small but incremental changes can have huge impacts over time.
Below are a few places we should focus on in the text:
- p. 369: “He had become a personality, something they had filtered out of the system many decades before.”
- p. 373: one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule.”
- What else have we discussed in class that reminds you of this? Schedules are tools. Do we conform to the schedule or does the schedule conform to us?
- p. 376: After Harlequin’s mischief at the mall, “the shopping cycle was thrown off by hours….The purchasing needs of the system were therefore falling behind.”
- p. 378: “They sent him to Coventry. And in Coventry they worked him over” 1984 style.
- p. 378: Small changes introduce “noise” into the system. Can activism actually work?
Remember, there are many interpretations of these works possible. You should think of our discussions as a way or ways to discuss/interpret the literature and not THE way.