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Repent Harlequin Essay

1226 words - 5 pages

Unconventional Hero Imagine a life where everything runs like clockwork. One gets up, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and falls asleep at the same time everyday, and then the day repeats. If one arrives late for any reason, those minutes are deducted from the allotted lifespan. This is the life of all the people but one in Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman." The protagonist, referred to as the Harlequin, has no sense of time. The Ticktockman regulates all of the society's schedules and everyone's life. The people live everyday exactly the same as the past day. The Harlequin disagrees with this way of life, so he disrupts it by pulling comical stunts like throwing thousands of jellybeans from the sky, which stops production in a factory and throws off the master schedule by seven minutes. Furious for any man to disrupt time and disobey his rules, the Ticktockman, after much difficulty, finally catches the Harlequin. Sadly after being brainwashed, the Harlequin apologizes for his mischief. The Harlequin was a rebel in his society, but sometimes strict rules cause rebellion. When creating this story, Ellison used a unique style in order to exemplify that nonconformity is necessary when rules are unjust.Using a quote from Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, Ellison structures his own story. Thoreau describes three different types of men¾men who serve with their bodies, their heads, and their consciences (qtd. in Ellison 541-2). The men who serve with their bodies, like the military and police force, parallel to Ellison's construction and factory workers, policemen, and practically everyone in that society. The Ticktockman portrays the men who serve with their heads, such as politicians and ministers. Finally, the great hero and patriot who serves with his conscience, like the notable Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, refers to the Harlequin.Both Mr. King and Gandhi read H. D. Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and believed his idea that "people should not obey evil or unjust laws" (Peck). They used this ideology to fight for their freedom. The Harlequin also disobeys the laws of his society by disrupting the master schedule because he feels these laws are unjust; he wants to show his fellow comrades that they can change their lives and that they do not have to live this way. The author of Beyond Conformity states that conformity can "stifle the development of the individuals uniqueness" (White 18). The Harlequin tries to liberate these people from their mass conformed selves and awaken them from their dull, boring lives. This truly is the heart of the story.After the introductory quote Ellison writes, "That is the heart of it. Now begin in the middle, and later learn the beginning; the end will take care of itself" (Ellison 542). The jumbled plot violates the conventional form used in literature. No one tells a story beginning with the middle and not finishing the end. Ellison's argument is about...

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