Study Guide

Timescape Language and Communication

By Gregory Benford

Language and Communication

You'd think communication would be a no-brainer of a subject for Timescape to tackle. You send a message into the past, someone reads it, and that someone changes the future. Done and done, and time to go enjoy the new world you've created. But hold on—language and communication are actually anything but simple.

Timescape opens up several questions on this front, asking us to look deeper at how we communicate. For example, are mathematical formulas a form of communication? If so, what are they trying to say? Also, can the language of humans even begin to hold the new ideas being proposed by science, ideas so outside of our everyday experiences that we likely don't have words for them? This, dear Shmoopers, is where things start to get good. So let's get going.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. What character has the hardest time communicating with others? What character has got it down? What does comparing these two characters tell you about this theme?
  2. What form of communication seems the most difficult to comprehend in the novel? Why do you think this is, and how does it relate to the theme of communication?
  3. All things considered, would you say Renfrew's communication with the past is successful? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Renfrew's experiment can't be considered an attempted at communication until he receives the note from La Jolla because true communication is a two-way process.

More than anything else, Markham's ease at communication is what makes him a successful mentor character.