Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358

Si Morley is a typical Finney protagonist. Allowed to speak in the first person, Si reveals himself to be a modest, sensitive, self-reliant individual who passionately cares that life should have meaning and purpose. Discontented in his repetitive job as a commercial artist and by a love affair which may...

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Si Morley is a typical Finney protagonist. Allowed to speak in the first person, Si reveals himself to be a modest, sensitive, self-reliant individual who passionately cares that life should have meaning and purpose. Discontented in his repetitive job as a commercial artist and by a love affair which may or may not hold promise, Si is ripe to respond to a situation, person, or task that demands his full energy.

Julia Charbonneau proves that person for Si in the world of 1882. Helping her aunt run a boarding house, Julia is a beautiful and sensitive woman. She and Si are immediately attracted to one another: She can show him around pastoral New York while he can charm her with seemingly incredible predictions about the future. Julia needs, however, more than a friend. With no careers available to even a bright female in 1882, Julia faces a marriage of convenience just to survive.

Jake Pickering, another citizen of 1882, passionately loves Julia, Although she does not reciprocate, he offers the opportunity for a respectable marriage. Jake is a hard-drinker, given to fits of outrage and boorish behavior; he lives comfortably, but seems preoccupied. His preoccupation turns out to be a plot to blackmail Andrew Carmody, a New York financier, who benefited from the criminal activities of the infamous Boss Tweed gang. Jake becomes Si's competitor in two ways: for Julia's heart and for the key to Carmody's career. Jake is a marvelous antagonist: mean-spirited, overwrought, and clever. Happily Si combats him; a real villain is preferable to the faceless bureaucrats of the twentieth-century.

Ruben Prien and Dr. Danzinger direct the experiments to place people in the past. Not sharing Si's affection for the past, they look upon time travel as a problem in physics and an opportunity to effect changes in the present. Clever in certain ways, their intelligence and imaginations are limited by the need to follow the orders of superiors, watch budgets, and maintain secrecy. As foils, these characters enable Si to appreciate his own special reaction to the past; as Si learns that his interests are not the same, he increasingly realizes that he must take independent action.

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