In our culture time is arguably the most important concept in carrying on our normal day-to-day lives. We do everything in regards to time. As I have been reading several children’s books in my Children Literature class I have noticed the hidden messages that authors such as Mark Twain (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) have put into their novels, reflecting on the cultures in which they lived.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck runs away after he is rich and experiences the way of higher society life. Tom tries to coax him to return home with his guardian, the widow, but Huck refuses. When trying to explain his perspective to Tom, Huck says, “The wider eats by a bell; she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell—everything’s so awful reg’lar a body can’t stand it.” Here, the “bell” represents time. The widow’s life is so scheduled that Huck cannot stand it. Huck represents a freedom that many of us in our own cultures no longer comprehend because we cannot imagine living without the restraints of time.
It seems that in this instance with Tom and Huck, that it is the wealthy who value the concept of time. The poor, such as Huck, cannot afford the luxury of living their life in such a routine as the widow lives. The poor do not have the luxury of watches, servants to wake them up at a certain hour, or sometimes even the luxury of knowing they will have a meal each day, much less at a certain time. However, Tom, who has grown up in a wealthier environment, says to Huck’s complaints about the Widow’s schedule that, “Well, everybody does that way, Huck” (492), insinuating that all people [with money] must be slaves to time—that it is the norm.
Lewis Carroll also touches on the concept of time by actually making Time a person in his novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Today we definitely act upon time as if it were a living being, ready to punish us if we are tardy, reward us if “on time,” and feel left out if we were to stop paying so much attention to it for a moment. We really do seem consider Time’s feelings in all situations, so much that if I were to have a child and name him Time, he would be the most popular kid in school. I believe that throughout her novel Carroll mocks the concept of time being most important to our culture. She begins the novel with the White Rabbit running by Alice, saying to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” and he “actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on” (325). This picture of the rabbit is easily transformed into a business man hurrying down the street to work or to a mom rushing her kids to soccer practice. We revolve our lives around time.
There are many cultures that have no concept of time at all. They are simply born, live, and die, taking no notice of their age, the date, or the hour. However absurd this way of living may sound to we who live in America, and therefore by the clock, the people in these nations are happily surviving and have been for hundreds of years. An example of such a nation is India. A friend of mine went on an internship trip to India where the Indian man who was in charge of the program had no clue how old he was. In fact, when asked by the American interns, he had to guess.
I believe that the control over our lives that we give time effect our relationships. I don’t propose any drastic changes such as doing away with the clock, but by reading these children’s novels and seeing what we are teaching our children about priorities in life, I am faced with a reality check. I am challenging myself to keep in mind my priorities, and maybe take the worry of time out of a few of them.