The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything Essay - Critical Essays

John D. MacDonald


The manipulation of time is one of the most common themes in both science-fiction and fantasy literature. In science fiction, time tampering generally is accomplished through some form of machinery, an idea deriving from H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Fantasy literature generally eschews hard science, dealing with time by an approach that is more imaginatively accessible, utilizing a dream concept or transcendent out-of-body experience tinged with ambiguity. Its literary ancestors are Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888). More recent examples are Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-five (1969) and Jack Finney’s Time and Again (1970) and From Time to Time (1995). Their common link is the genre of time travel.

John D. MacDonald’s approach to the theme of time is different. In time travel, the subject takes a journey to either the past or the future, and the journey generally is a perilous one, usually with some threat to a safe return. Time is trespassed upon, but not controlled, and travelers generally move with consummate care. Kirby Winter, the protagonist of The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything, takes complete control of the present. He possesses the ability, with the aid of the magic watch, to freeze objective time. He can halt actions occurring in the present and move to change...

(The entire section is 404 words.)