If you could go back in time, would you wish to actively participate in the culture and events of the era, or would you prefer to just observe? Which era would you choose, and why? There is a "Part II" to this post, saved for tomorrow, since this was getting to be a bit long. I'll answer these questions in reference to myself in tomorrow's post.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
I've mentioned one of my favorite novels a few times in recent posts. It's a book called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It's the first book in a series about the same characters. The book begins in post WWII Britain. Claire Randall is visiting Scotland with her husband, following a long separation due to the war. She visits some standing stones (Stonehenge is an example) and is mystically pulled back through time to the year 1743.
In the book, the word "outlander" has something of a double meaning. Claire is British, and is seen as an outlander, or Sassenach, by the scots. To be a Sassenach alone amongst the Scots in 1743 is a dangerous thing, since the Scots were fomenting rebellion against oppressive British rule at the time. The bigger sense of the word "outlander" is Claire's anachronistic presence in 18th century Scotland. She is out of time and place, quite literally.
When I was a little girl, I read a lot of fiction set against historical backdrops. I was an imaginitive child, and I felt I didn't belong in modern times. I longed to go back in time and live in an era when I could wear gowns every day, ride horses for transportation and dine by candlelight. A post by Random Kath over at Ordinary Snapshots reminded me of the days when I felt this way.
Of course, I recognize all of the flaws in my childish reasoning. It is not likely that I would have been part of an economically advantaged class (although one can dream). It's much more likely that I would have had one long dress to call my own, day by dirty, smoky-fired, air conditioning-free day, and without the benefit of a washing machine. I would have been more likely to walk around avoiding the piles of muck left by the horses than to have actually owned or ridden one.
It is doubtful that I would have had much education at all, and who knows whether or not I would even have learned to read. There were common beliefs and practices in past centuries that I would find repugnant, and don't even get me started on public health issues! Most of all, the disadvantages of being a woman at almost any time in the past are enormous. Look how much the status of women has changed, just in my lifetime! Why would I want to go back?
Having said all of that, there is still the kernel of longing within me to visit the past and spy on my ancestors. I suppose I would prefer to visit as a fly on the wall, so to speak, rather than as an active participant. To participate actively, if I took my modern self and way of thinking along, could get me into a lot of trouble. I'm too vocal and my opinions are too modern. I'm too accustomed to living with my US American freedoms.