Time of the Ghost - Spoilers, questions on the ending

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Apr 3 16:19:16 EDT 2001

On Tue, 3 Apr 2001 18:25:53 +0100, Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:

>More about Imogen's sacrifice.  And - horror of horrors - I think I disagree
>with Melissa...

Poor Philip.  You've forgotten that you usually DO disagree with me.  :)

>> The part about Imogen having to be the one is complicated.  Sally couldn't
>> alter the past because Monigan was aware of her in all times, like some
>Absolutely no.  It is made quite clear in TotG that no-one can alter the past at
>all.  Imo knows that she gave something, therefore the ghost gan go back and
>make her give something.

Actually, this part isn't clear.  Yesterday I was glancing through to
refresh my memory, so I'm going to take a closer look now, and see if I can
ferret out more.  Quoting from my copy (page 228 of the recent Greenwillow
hardcover, in case anyone's following along, you poor souls), Imogen tells

"'Find me before I decide to go home.  Can you do that?  Try every way you
can to make me go back to Monigan.  Make me give her something, too.  You
won't have to tell me what.  I'll know.'

"Cart said, doubtfully, 'But aren't you trying to change the past, Imo?  I
don't think it can be done.'

"'I know it can't,' said Imogen.  'It's the future I'm trying to change.'"

Reading ahead, I realized something else.  Although Sally-the-ghost goes
back into the past to find Imogen, she doesn't change the past.  Instead she
brings Imogen into the present, where *she* is a "ghost" because she's out
of her own time.  In the present (young Imo's future) they're able to tell
her what she needs to do.

Adult Imogen isn't certain of what happened.  She says (again quoting from
p. 228) "'I think something made me go.  But it's all muddled in my head
because there was a thunderstorm....But I think there were ghosts in the
storm somehow.'"  If she had already gone, Sally wouldn't have had to
persuade her.  

>> probably why Sally was in the car accident; Imogen's gift wasn't
>> retroactive.  She had to offer it in the past, but Monigan had to accept it
>> in the past and seven years later in the present.)
>I Disagree there as well, I'm afraid.  In fact, not even Imogen's gift was
>sufficient to buy Sally's life.  Sally was only released by Julian's crashing
>the car into one of Monigan's sacrificial posts.

That's not true either.  After Monigan accepts Imogen's career, Sally tells
her that she's an imperfect offering and Monigan can't take her.  And
Monigan pushes her aside, "peevishly wondering why those two leap year days
had got in the way and prevented her having Sally already."  It's only after
this that she claims Julian instead.  Imogen's sacrifice isn't enough to
cancel the bargain, but it's enough to keep Sally from being the victim.
When they learn that Julian died, Sally thinks "Monigan had got her life
after all.  She had cheated again.  Perhaps she had meant to have Julian
Addiman all along.  He had been hers as much as Sally's."  Monigan never did
cheat.  She told them at the start that they could please themselves
offering things to buy her off, but that she had the right to claim a life
seven years hence.  But it seemed like cheating because she didn't refuse
their gifts.

>Sally was in the car "accident" because Monigan was claiming her life.  She
>didn't die immediately because Monigan was working to one calendar, Sally and
>Julian had promised according to another.
>Only when Julian died could Sally recover from the car "accident"

I think that's debatable.  Time in this novel is far too fluid.  We assume
that this is what happened because it must have taken time for Julian's
death to get into the evening paper, and so Julian was already dead by the
time Sally starts recovering.  But this would mean that the entire novel is
about something that Doesn't Really Matter, and there's no suggestion that
DWJ wants the reader to believe this.  While we can't always trust Sally's
understanding of events, we're never led to believe that her feelings and
instincts are wrong.  As the ghost, she's mistaken about who she is, but
she's not at all confused about Julian being evil or that something really
bad is happening and will happen if she doesn't act.

Here's what I think.  I said that Imogen's gift wasn't retroactive, but I
think that's wrong.  Back to Imogen being uncertain whether she did or did
not go back to Monigan:  As I read it, Sally still had to persuade Imogen to
give her gift, otherwise it would have been done already and wouldn't have
mattered.  I think Imogen didn't just not remember, I think adult-Imogen
actually *hadn't* gone back to Monigan.  But the Imogen who gave Monigan her
career was child-Imogen, and nothing she did altered HER past.  She came
forward into the present to receive adult-Imogen's instruction; she went
back to the time she'd left, and went forward from there.  She *couldn't*
change the past because for her, it hadn't happened yet.  It was still her
future.  And once she'd done that, she altered the *future* that Sally and
everyone in the hospital room was living.  It was instantaneously as though
it had always been that way.  I think that moment of quantum uncertainty is
why Imogen didn't have a clear memory of the past, and that her babbling
about thunderstorms is how she resolved it for herself.

Based on this, it's possible that Julian hadn't been in the car accident
until after Monigan rejected Sally's life, but once she had, he had always
been in the car accident.  (Which novelist talks about time this way?  I
feel a strange sense of deja vu as though I'm channeling someone else's

>The thing that worries me as I write this (I've never thought of it before) is
>that _none_ of the gifts that Monigan accepted seemed to have any effect on
>Sally's fate.  That's just like Monigan - accept the gifts, and do nothing about
>the requests.  Indeed, they are treated as free-will gifts...

That's because she never promised anything at first.  Cart asks what they
can do to redeem the "ghost" and Monigan says "Please yourselves.  I have
the right to claim a life seven years from today."  Then there's a short
paragraph that's interesting: Monigan won't speak to or acknowledge anyone
but Cart, "as priestess. It amused her to keep up her old ceremony" (p.
218).  So when they are all offering things, *they* believe it's to buy her
off, but she's treating their gifts as simply her due.

And while the gifts don't seem to matter, they do provide Sally with a way
out.  Cart offers Oliver, and Monigan rejects him because he's missing
toes--and an offering has to be perfect.  This is why Sally can use
Monigan's own rules against her, to suggest that she's "all in bits" and
isn't a perfect offering.  Or maybe Monigan is tired of arguing. :)

>(Thinking at the keyboard) Perhaps it was necessary that everyone there give
>something.  Julian - who presumably didn't want Sally saved - gave nothing.  So
>at the end of seven years, his life was available for Monigan to claim in lieu
>of Sally's.

But Sally didn't give anything at that time either.  That explains why she
could be the victim, but not why Monigan would have given her up for Julian.

I actually thought of another explanation--that Julian and Sally were both
scheduled for destruction--but it's clear that Monigan is going to claim *a*
life, just one.  So probably not.

Anything else?  See what I mean about mining DWJ's books more deeply each
time?  :)

Melissa Proffitt
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