Places Where I've Done Time Essay - Critical Essays

William Saroyan


Time is an important concept in the works of Saroyan. Many of his plays and stories feature or comment upon it in their titles, such as I Used to Believe I Had Forever: Now I’m Not So Sure (1968), and present analyses of the concept of time. The point of Saroyan’s most famous work, the play The Time of Your Life (1939), is that one wastes much of one’s life in waiting, being bored, doing things at the command of others, or engaging in unpleasant or painful behavior. For only a brief moment does one experience one’s own time, “the time of your life,” a time that one should recognize and savor. For Saroyan, neither life nor art should regard time as a dramatic, dynamic process leading to a grand climax, be it marriage, success, or death. Once one is alive, all life is important, and all life is to be lived as fully as possible.

Almost everything that Saroyan wrote involves the idea that the little, at first unnoticed, times and places are finally the most significant. Like a Japanese artist, Saroyan finds meaning not in history but in the moment, not in the panorama but in the details. The reader of Places Where I’ve Done Time who wonders what all the little essays are leading up to or who wonders what the point is has already missed the point. The brief glances and the random arrangement reinforce Saroyan’s theory that intense experiences come and go but are finally united and reborn in the consciousness and...

(The entire section is 528 words.)