Upon finishing The Time Traveler’s Wife, I must say I was left very upset with the position Niffenegger left Clare in. Referring to Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, Niffenegger includes an excerpt at the end of the novel:
” Now from his breast into his eyes the ache of longing mounted, and he wept at last, his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,”
– The Odyssesy, Homer
This excerpt made me re-think my perception of Henry and Clare’s relationship. Originally, I made admired their strong bond, marveling over Clare’s stability and Henry’s devotedness. However, by the end of the novel I became frustrated by Henry’s unreliability- which causes Clare constant worry and heartache. Even after his death, almost fifty years later, Clare is still waiting for his in ” the room”, appearing as ” someone who is very tired” (535). Just as Penelope tirelessly protected Odysseus’ estate from the aggressive suitors in his absence, Clare bared the burden of holding the young DeTamble family together throughout Henry’s absences.
In the above quote, the description of Penelope as ” faithful” ( Homer) hints at Odysseus’ infidelity during his travels. Similarly, Henry spent the greater portion of his twenties involved with Ingrid, while Clare was left eagerly awaiting the day they would finally meet. During this time, Clare endured constant taunts from those around her of being a “dyke” (93). There is absolutely no argument that both heroine’s highlight admirable characteristics of the ideal, ‘strong’ woman.
However, a key difference is that at the end of Homer’s epic, Penelope and Odysseus are reunited as he fights his way through the path of suitors. Finally, Penelope is able to rely on her husband for support and to provide for the family. The DeTambles face a far different fate, however, for Henry dies, and a grieving Clare must support young Alba all on her own. So my questions for thought are…
1. First of all, did you like the ending of the book? Why or Why not?
2. Did you think it was fair for Clare to be left ‘waiting’ after Henry’s death? Or do you think she ‘ had a choice’?
Personally, I was very upset by the dependent position Niffenegger left Clare in, but I can’t wait to hear what everyone else thinks!