Study Guide

The Time Traveler's Wife Fate vs. Free Will

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Fate vs. Free Will

The Time Traveler's Wife explores determinism (the idea that your life is already pre-determined) versus free will (the idea that your choices can influence and alter your future). Although time traveler Henry knows his future, he tries to live as though he doesn't know what life is bringing. It's because he believes that knowing your future makes you feel miserable and trapped, because you can't change your future, which makes your life feel meaningless. Clare feels torn between embracing and rejecting the determinism of her life. On the one hand, she enjoys the security of knowing she'll be with Henry, and on the other hand, she rebels against Henry's predictions of the future when it comes to her dream of having a baby.

Questions About Fate vs. Free Will

  1. Many reviewers noted that The Time Traveler's Wife raises questions about determinism and free will, but these critics tend to be divided over which theme the book most supports. Does Niffenegger seem to be saying that we have free will or that our lives are predetermined? What's your take and why?
  2. In contrast to Henry, Alba can exert her will over which time she travels to. Why do you think that is?
  3. Henry makes a rule of not telling people their future, because he believes they will be miserable knowing exactly which path their life will take. But could it also be comforting to know that you live in a universe where life is already determined?
  4. When Gomez warns Clare about Henry and his occasionally bad behavior, she tells him that she has no choice but to be with him. She later muses that making a decision that involves no choice can't be wrong. Is that a valid argument? And did she really have no choice in the matter?

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