Time of the Ghost - Spoilers, questions on the ending

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Wed Apr 4 13:50:20 EDT 2001

>>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.  :)

No, no.  It's Tanaqui I usually disagree with!  It looks that way because when I
don't disagree with you - which is usually - you say things so well that I don't
need to comment!

>>> 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
>>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
> Sally:
> "'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.'"

Well, I think that's clear, but never mind.

> 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.

Indeed.  But the impression I get is that this was there all along - young Imo
had that experience anyway.

> 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.

On the contrary, she had already gone, but only because her vision of the future
Sally had already persuaded her.  She actually says in your quote that she went,
after all...

>>> 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

I don't think that's true - see below.

> 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.

That's what I meant by "free-will 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

Well, I based that assumption on the time it takes for witnesses to report the
crime, police to give chase, and Julian to crash.  The impression I got was that
the crash was on the same journey, more or less, as the crime.

While it is difficult for it to get on the same journey, I would say that there
is supporting evidence:  The journey is that which will take Julian out of the
country.  So if the crash didn't happen then, why hasn't he already left.  Also,
car crime leading to car chase usually implies the same journey - otherwise, why
would he have been in the car when chase was joined?

I agree time is fluid though - all times running side by side for Monigan.  So
it is debatable.

> 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.

I agree that this is a problem.  But it is a problem anyway unless there is a
good way to distinguish Imogen's gift.  I don't think the musical career was
sufficient to buy back Sally's life - otherwise why would Monigan have needed to
claim Julian?

> 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.

As far as I am concerned, that is still changing the past - Sally-now, by giving
advice to Imo-then, is changing the past.  But then I don't believe in changing
the future either...

> 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
> thoughts.)

That is _definitely_ changing the past:  "Once she had, he had always been in
the car accident".

>>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
>>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.

That's what I meant.  I think.

> 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. :)

Hmm.  More like 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.
>>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.


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

Well, I should be rushing off to a rehearsal, but I shall just try and type
another idea:

This relates to my idea that ypu can't change the future either.  There is only
one future, but WE BUILD IT.

Monigan's getting Julian instead of Sally wasn't the result of a _change_ made
anywhere.  It was always going to happen that way.  All the events in the book
lead up to this.

For Monigan, all times run side by side.  Therefore it matters not a whit to her
that advice given now is acted upon seven years ago.  So there's no reason for
this to cause a change.

"Meant to have Julian all along?"  Perhaps not.  But if all times run side by
side, she knew that's what would happen.  And it didn't matter to her that they
were going to be able to save Sally, because Julian had also dedicated himself.

To the human characters, these things did matter.  The future may be impossible
to change, but it is still what we make it.  So Sally was indeed saved by the
various actions of the characters.  As for which actions, I'm still not sure.
Even if it is Imo's gift of her musical career, I don't think it's as clear how
as you make out.  But then it's not meant to be...


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