Monday, 23 July 2012

The End Of There Will Be Time

In the beginning is the end. On the first page of Chapter I of Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), the narrator, Dr Robert Anderson, describing the midwestern town of Senlac, where the novel begins and ends, as he saw it in February 1933, remarks:

"The beginning shapes the end..." (p. 9)

and mentions:

"...a darkness which was Morgan Woods." (p. 9)

At the mid-point in Chapter VIII, the central character, Jack Havig, who had been delivered by Dr Anderson in Senlac on that February morning in 1933, enters:

"...a timberlot big enough to gladden Havig with memories of Morgan Woods." (p. 79)

Finally, in October 1971 and in the concluding Chapter XVI, Robert Anderson walks through "...a delirium of color..." to the Morgan Woods creek where he stands on the bridge watching the water, a squirrel and an oak, then returns home to be visited by Havig for the last time. (pp. 170-171)

Thus, Morgan Woods becomes a real place in the course of the novel and the lives of its characters.

Sean M Brooks wrote on this blog (see here) about Anderson's ability to write attention-catching opening paragraphs for novels. Here, I must commend the conclusion of There Will Be Time. A good concluding sentence or paragraph can leave the reader reflecting on the events of the novel or even wanting immediately to reread it. A now out-of-date British novelist, Dornford Yates, often had his first person narrator recapitulate several dramatic scenes in the concluding paragraph. In early secondary school, I read a juvenile adventure novel set in the Middle East. I have forgotten title, author and plot but I do remember that the novel ended with the viewpoint character leaving, looking back, seeing a light and knowing that, in her heart, that light would always shine.

In Chapter XVI, the narrator learns that the time travelling Havig and his wife will, in a distant future, travel between stars and probably not return to Earth. On the very last page, he speculates that, from an even more remote future, newly created time travellers travelled back to spread the time travel gene-bearing virus that empowered Havig to travel through time and initiate that future civilisation. He concludes:

"I walk beyond town, many of these nights, to stand under the high autumnal stars, look upward and wonder." (p. 176)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Thanks for tne nice remark mentioning me and my notes about Poul Anderson's skill at composing attention catching opening paragraphs. But I had not thought of how well he ENDED stories and novels. You were right to mention that. I immediately thought of how Anderson ended THE GAME OF EMPIRE, with its allusion to Rudyard Kipling's novel KIM. I'll need to pay more attention to how Anderson ENDED his stories.


Paul Shackley said...

Good endings that I can think of are THE GAME OF EMPIRE, MIRKHEIM and THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND.