Time Slips Away

Time in Giovanni’s Room is often brought up to show that David in fact does not have much time.  This lack of time is often contrasted or juxtaposed with his inability to make decisions or choices which in the end leads to David being alone once more.  When we are first told about David’s initial homosexual experience with his high school friend he explains to us his concern for the future, for his future self, “a cavern opened in my mind, black, full of rumor, suggestion of half-heard, half forgotten, half-understood stories, full of dirty words.  I thought I saw my future in that cavern.  I was afraid.  I could have cried, cried for the shame and terror, cried for not understanding how this could have happened to me, how this could have happened in me” (9).  David explains that he is afraid that this will become his future.  We get our first glimpse at the passing of time and how quickly David believes this one experience will determine the rest of his life.  He seems to believe, at least as a young man, that time is a fleeting thing and thus he must not let it get away from him too quickly.  What is also hidden in this passage however, is his discomfort with the fact the he did not make the conscious choice to be attracted to Joey.  This thing just happened in him.  It was not in his control.  After this experience he does not then address the issue of his sexuality but instead ignores it by running away from it.  This shows, that he believes he has more time to think about what happened and make a decision later.

As the novel moves forward we keep on encountering the issue of time with other characters as well, but always in a relation to David.  In all his letters his father is constantly asking him to make up his mind about what he is doing with his life.  He constantly urges him to go back to America and reminds him of his age.  Similarly, Jacques tells David, “Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possible afford and you are not that young anymore” (41).  People in David’s life continue to urge David to make some sort of choice.  His father wants him to come home and make a choice about what he is planning on doing with the rest of his life, while Jacques wants to David to confront, explore, and ultimately make a choice on his sexuality.  All of these characters realize that David does not in fact have a lot of time to make these choices and so they use time to explain how he must make decisions soon.

Nonetheless, David relishes in his inability to make a choice until he realized just how much this has cost him.  When he thinks about his love for Giovanni he states, “I realized that such childishness was fantastic at my age and the happiness out of which it yet more so” (83).  David has enjoyed his time with Giovanni up to this point and although he sometimes questions his future he makes no decision in the matter until after he has fallen in love with Giovanni.  This love, however, frightens him and thus he decides to return to Hella upon her arrival to Paris.  This is when we finally see David make a decision, yet by this time this decision ruins his life.  He looses the person he really loved, Giovanni as well as the person he perhaps wanted to love Hella.  All of this took place because he could not make a choice to be with Giovanni when he was with him or to deny himself and simply wait for Hella.  After he made the choice there was no way that Hella could remain with him either considering that his love belongs to Giovanni.  Thus, we see David’s inability to make a decision along with his simple and unrealistic view of time cost him his happiness.  In the end, however, it is unclear what this ending/ new beginning has in store for David.  In the final pages of the book we see him declare “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (168).  With this quote it is unclear whether it is a hopeful ending.  What is clear, however, is that David has finally understood the passing of time as a real thing in his life and has made the choice to become aware of it.

-Basil Halward

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1 Comment

Filed under Week 7: Giovanni's Room

One response to “Time Slips Away

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post about the theme of time slipping away from David, as it stands in stark contrast with the idea of stagnancy that we often discussed in class. Before reading this post, I didn’t think about how time is often slipping away from David (such as in the letters from his father), and how stagnancy/a stalling of time really seems to occur most in Giovanni’s room. – LGT

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