Study Guide

The Time Traveler's Wife Family

By Audrey Niffenegger

Family

[Sharon to Henry:] "I think you've got the only nice one." (1.9.100)

Sharon refers to the fact that everyone in Clare's family is a piece of work, aside from Clare. What makes them so hard to deal with?

[Clare:] Everyone's already had a few drinks when we arrive in the living room. Alicia makes our private hand signal: Watch out for Mama, she's messed up. (1.9.118)

Alicia and Clare are so familiar with their mother's outbreaks that they're able to communicate the gravity of her state without even having to speak about it.

[Philip Abshire to Clare:] "Honey, I really don't think it's necessary to tell him about your mother." (1.9.141)

Clare's dad obviously believes in upholding appearances of a normal family in front of outsiders. Do you take the same stance?

[Henry to Alicia:] "[…] your dad seems to care about you very much." [Alicia:] "He just wants me to be perfect in front of his friends. He doesn't care at all." (1.9.141)

Henry and Alicia have a completely different perspective on Philip Abshire. Who do you think is right and why?

[Henry to Alicia:] "The things you do to your dad are small beer compared with the things my dad and I have done to each other." (1.9.315)

Henry explains to Alicia that she doesn't even know what inflicting real pain on each other means, and cites his relationship to his father as an example. What seems to be the main reason for their hostility toward each other?

[Clare:] [Mama] looks beautiful, serene after last night's storm. […] I walk to her, kiss her cheek lightly. "Merry Christmas, Mama." It's so hard to stay mad at her when she's my familiar, lovely Mama. (1.9.341-342)

When her mom is in a good mood it's impossible for Clare to see her as the person who keeps embarrassing the family. She remembers the perfect, lovely mom she likes to call her mother.

[Henry:] Everyone is smiling, well-mannered, and good-looking. We are a model happy family, an advertisement for the bourgeoisie. […] But […] …there is a noticeable strain. […] We are all acting, pretending to be relaxed, impersonating the ideal mother, father, sisters, brother, boyfriend, fiancée. (1.9.350)

Although Henry seems to criticize the fact that everyone's just faking the happy family, he plays along. Why might that be?

[Henry:] [Kimy] must be seventy and to me she seems exactly the same as when I was little. I spent a lot of time down here, helping her make dinner, […] reading, doing homework, and watching TV. (1.10.1)

Kimy basically became Henry's mother after his passed away, because his father was too distraught to look after him.

[Richard DeTamble:] "Yes, [Annette DeTamble] was very happy… we were happy." [Henry:] "Yeah. You were like a different person. I always wondered what it would have been like to grow up with you the way you were, then. (1.10.97-99)

By telling his father how happy he used to be and what a great father he might have been, Henry subtly telling his father that he always craved his love and still does.

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