Study Guide

The Time Traveler's Wife Love

By Audrey Niffenegger

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[Clare:] "Do you love her?" [Henry:] "Very much" […] I'm astonished to see that tears are streaming across her face […] [Clare:] "It's just that I thought maybe you were married to me." (1.4.214-215)

Clare is devastated to find out that Henry is in love with another woman, because she doesn't know that the very woman he speaks of is her future self. But as the twelve-year-old girl that she is, how might she react if she did find out that the woman is her?

[Henry:] This is why I love to be drawn by Clare: when she looks at me with that kind of attention, I feel that I am everything to her. (1.5.280)

Henry's statement suggests that feeling loved has to do with getting your partner's full attention, with being in the moment together, no distractions.

[Grandmother Meagram:] "Do you ever miss him?" she asks me. [Clare:] "Every day, every minute." [Grandmother Meagram:] "Every minute," […] "Yes. It's that way, isn't it?" (1.7.99)

Clare's grandmother acknowledges that loving Henry means waiting for him. Every minute. Forever.

[Clare:] I realize that I have forgotten my present Henry in my joy at seeing my once and future Henry, and I'm ashamed. I feel an almost maternal longing to go solace the strange boy who is becoming the man before me. (1.8.290)

Although Clare loves all versions of Henry, she first fell in love with the older version of him. Therefore she has trouble accepting the flaws of young, present Henry, who's now the one in front of her. Clare realizes, though, that she bears the responsibility of shepherding him along to the man she wants to be with in her future.

[Clare:] When I was growing up Henry came and went […] so I always had this intense, unsatisfied feeling. When I finally found him in the present, […] Henry is constantly touching me, kissing me, making love to me. […] And he tells me things! […] But the best thing of all is that […] I know where to find him. (1.9.1)

Being with Henry in the present, Clare doesn't have to long for him anymore. She can feel his physical presence and love for her every day.

[Henry to Clare:] "That's what I love you for: your inability to perceive my hideous flaws." (1.12.40)

Henry jokes with Clare that her love for him is making her blind to his flaws. But isn't there a difference between being blind to someone's flaws and loving them in spite of or for those flaws? Which is a sign of true love, in your opinion?

[Clare:] […] I kiss Henry goodnight. He smells of alcohol sweat and Helen's perfume. […] And I fall asleep, dreamless and happy. (1.12.85)

One wouldn't think that Henry's current state is the perfect conclusion to their wedding day, but for Clare it seems to be. She obviously has no delusions about ideal weddings and husbands, but has known Henry for long enough to love his real self and the reality of their life together.

[Clare:] My body wanted a baby. […] I wanted someone to love who would stay: stay and be there, always. (2.3.3)

Because Clare loves Henry so much, his absences are painful to her. She wants a baby so that at least part of him will stay with her.

[Henry:] "It's beautiful." [Clare] nods, satisfied, for a moment, that her mother really did love her. (2.6.29)

Clare always questioned her mother's love for her, because throughout her childhood her mother remained emotionally aloof. The poem that her mother dedicated to Clare finally proves to Clare that, deep down, she really loved her.

[Henry:] She will never know. It will not hurt. Maybe it will hurt a little. Someday I will tell her and she will realize I had to do it. We tried. I have no choice. […] I'm doing it because I love her. (2.11.14)

Henry decides to get a vasectomy because he believes that loving Clare means that he needs to protect her from risking her life just to have a baby. Do you think he's making the right choice?

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