Fifth Stop: Looking Backward

Folks, we’ve gone from exploring the use of horses and wagons to slave ships to automobiles, and now it’s time to examine the use of time as a travel mechanism.  Time travel you say?  Where a big bulky time machine is used to transport the passenger from one instance in time to another?  Similar to say…

The Delorean from the movie Back to the Future. The Delorean was used to transport the characters through time.

Well folks, not all time travel needs fancy machines or souped-up Delorean cars, instead, all some time travelers need is a good nights sleep to be transported through time.  For example, in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887, the main character, Julian West was put to sleep by Dr. Pillsbury, a “Professor of Animal Magnetism” (Bellamy 57) in the year 1887.  Dr. Pillsbury was skilled in mesmerism which allowed West to fall into a deep, soundless sleep.  When West awakened it was in the year 2000 which means he slept for “one hundred and thirteen years, three months and eleven days” (Bellamy 61).  Since West was in a trance while he slept, his body tissues and functions were suspended, causing his physical self to remain intact and not age throughout his sleep.

This makes Julian West the first of our characters to involuntarily travel.  He is also the first character to experience travel without actually leaving the comforts of his home.  As, according to Raj in the above clip, time travel is only capable of transporting someone forward or backwards in time, not to a different destination, Julian West simply traveled forward a century but didn’t leave his home.  When he awoke, he remained in Boston, however Boston, he soon learned, had changed a great deal in a century, whether he did not.  Upon touring Boston after his time travel, Julian West discovered that things were not as he remembered.

“But I think what surprised me as much as anything was not to find any stores on Washington Street, or any banks on State” (Bellamy 93)            

What Julian West learns is that the entire world has changed while he was sleeping, not just Boston.  The shops and banks are no longer on Washington or State street because neither are needed anymore.  Buying and selling is a thing of the past as money no longer exists.  Workers are given “credits” to “purchase” what they desire from large stores which are more like housing centers for the goods “sold” to members of each ward.  While Julian West only traveled through time, and not space, the huge gap in time has created a world that is similar to that of having traveled through space as well.


To Infinity and Beyond!

According to Paul J. Nahin, time travel to the future is theoretically possible.  In his book Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction he states that if a person was travelling by time machine they could travel to the future.  He bases this claim on the theory of special relativity.  Now, I’m no scientist, but according to “Einstein’s Special Relativity For Dummies” if you are moving fast enough through space, what you see and what others see will differ based on the speeds you are traveling compared to others.  Now as I have already said, I am not a scientist and this is not a science lesson, so that is all we need to know about the theory of special relativity.  Instead we will focus again on other aspects of time travel.  Nahin also  presents theories for time travel that does not involve a time machine, similarly to how Julian West traveled in Looking Backward.  The idea has been presented that time travel can occur just through the power of your mind.  What Nahin is talking about is time travel based on a persons thoughts, where the traveler thinks about a time long enough and hard enough and their thoughts and desires will transport their mind back in time.  There has been some discrepancies about this however, as some believe the whole person can travel back in time, while others believe only their mind can be transported into the body of a person living in the past time.  While all of these are theories, time travel is still one of the great mysteries of life and is therefore a great source of entertainment.

Works Cited

Bellamy, Edward.  Looking Backward: 2000-1887.  Canada: Broadview Literary Texts, 2003.

Jones, Andrew Zimmerman and Robbins, Daniel.  “Einstein’s Special Relativity.”  String Theory for Dummies.  25 November 2012.  <;.      

Nahin, Paul J.  Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction.  New York: American Institute of Physics, 1993.

Categories: Travel Literature | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Fifth Stop: Looking Backward

  1. LOVE the connection to The Big Bang Theory and Back to the Future (both are two of my favourites). Your blog is awesome Devyn! I hadn’t thought much about the transportation in any of the novels before checking out your blog.

  2. What’s not to love about TBBT? And thanks Melissa!

  3. For some reason the video clip won’t play on the blog. I’ve tried to fix it, but it is possible to watch on YouTube and the link provided will take you there. Sorry for the technical difficulties!

  4. stevyyyy420

    the video clip was perfect

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