Harlan Ellison is exceptionally frank and to-the-point when developing Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman as an example of the true value of civil disobedience and deviation. Ellison starts by informing the reader of his intent, leading into the overall moral of the story. While doing so, Ellison includes a long quote from Henry David Thoreaus essay, Civil Disobedience, describing how very few men serve the state with a consciousness; as doing so would force them into a resistance of the state. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau argues that people have a duty to refuse to cause evil. There are very few people in society who actually preform this duty, Thoreau says; especially those serving the state. However, he also argues that it isnt your responsibility to go out and try to fix the preexisting evil in the world. Most dont think for themselves, and because of this, an agenda of apathy and callousness is promoted. Those few who actually refuse to conform to such an agenda are the heros, or martyrs, of the world. Compared to the rest of society, whose color and life has been drained, the Harlequins vibrancy makes him stick out like a sore thumb. With his stark red hair, elvish ears, and tanned skin, the Harlequin is created by Ellison to represent individuality and deviation from society. In one instance, to rebel against the Ticktockman, the Harlequin drops 150,000 dollars worth of jelly beans onto the automatic sidewalks, disrupting the routine and causing the schedule to be delayed by several minutes.
This small deviation from the schedule, while seeming insignificant, was viewed as an absolute catastrophe. In a society where time is the new currency, any small deviation from order and unity is considered a disaster of major importance. Not only is this a story of the Harlequin deviating from his societys norms, but the author deviates from his as well. Ellison starts the story with a note to the reader, laying out the theme, outline, and contents of the story. The way Harlan Ellison wrote Repent Harlequin disregarded any common way of writing a short story. He completely ignores proper grammar and punctuation, often including very long and drawn out sentences. Ellison does this to support his tales theme; deviation. If he were to follow the typical story structure, he himself would be conforming to society, something that the entire story is prominently against. While illustrating the robotic lives of the general population, Ellison wrote that , He could hear the metronomic left-right-left of the 2:47 PM shift, entering the Timkin roller-bearing plant in their sneakers, and the softer right-left-right of the 5:00 AM formation, going home. This quote shows the punctuality and obsessive nature this society has over time. Instead of 2:50, or 3:00, the beginning shift starts exactly at 2:47. No sooner, no later. In addition, the arriving workers walked from left-right-left, while the workers who were going home walked right-left-right. This unnecessary distinction between the two groups shows exactly how over-organized the population truly is.
Eventually, the Harlequin is caught and brought to the Ticktockman, who demands he repent. When the Harlequin smugly refuses, he is brainwashed without any regards to character development and plot. As said by Ellison, You cant make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. In the end, the Harlequin was actually just some guy named Everett C. Marm who never had an inkling for time. Yet, despite being destroyed, it is prominent that the Harlequin has caused a difference. In an ironic twist of events, the Ticktockman himself is jokingly late by three minutes. Ellison does this to show the reader that there is a breakdown in order. The world will be different because of the Harlequin.
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