''Repent, Harlequin!'' Said the Ticktockman Essay

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Ullmann is a freelance writer and editor. In the following essay, Ullmann discusses how time is tenuous in Ellison's story and how the Harlequin is able to exploit that weakness to further his cause of civil disobedience.

Ellison's short story "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" features a futuristic dystopia—the opposite of a utopia—where humanity is so enslaved to time that even the very vitality of one's heart is controlled by "The Ones Who Kept The Machine Functioning Smoothly." People move from task to task with machine-like regularity; those who are late are punished by having proportional time shaved from end of their lives, until the end catches up with the present and those people are turned off. Ellison here represents tardiness as a crime fit for the ultimate punishment: the death penalty:

. . . and one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve...

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This section contains 1,893 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the ''Repent, Harlequin!'' Said the Ticktockman Study Guide
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''Repent, Harlequin!'' Said the Ticktockman from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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