By Guest Contributor Aliya; an earlier version of this post can be found at Sanctuary
(*I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum*)
When I started reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, I was already aware that in the movie version of the book, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams were cast to play Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. So I was already aware that the two main characters were white, and I didn’t really bat an eye at it – most successful authors (particularly if their book is becoming a movie) choose white protagonists for whatever reasons (or without even considering other options).
But as I was reading, I started to notice a trend – in contrast to the white main characters, who were rich, musicians, lawyers, artists, etc – and versed in punk music as well as opera, and in German, French and English literature, the characters of color were either silent, strange, and/or did not speak English, but rather english, or slang/broken/obviously-second-language English.
Which annoyed me.
Don’t get me wrong; as an English Major, I fully enjoyed the book, and consider it possibly one of my favorites. To deny the racism/lack of race in the “usual” favorites – Pride & Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, etc, or in the general canon of English Literature is a bit ridiculous – so I have come to accept that many books I love were born out of a time of racism, or have subtle or overt racism in them themselves…(Did you know Heathcliff might’ve been a person of color??)
But the fact that representation after representation of smart, intelligent, or ‘worthy’ characters in the Time Traveler’s Wife were white…troubled me. There are flaws to the white characters, but their “flaws” are human flaws – they somehow never struck me as weird, and they never took away from their roles in Henry’s life as saviors and friends, respectable and intelligent.