Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 3, chapter 1 – “Nothing is Random”)

Reading in Public – “Winter’s Tale” (part 3, chapter 1 – “Nothing is Random”)

We’re onto part 3 of the book now, which is titled “The Sun…and the Ghost”.  We’re a little past the halfway mark of the book, and by the end of this part, the plot is going to speed up quite a bit.  Before that, though, we’re going to meet an old friend, and get some history on the two great newspapers of Helprin’s New York City.

Before that, though, we have a very short (2 pages) prologue chapter to this section of the book, in which the author makes explicit some of the things we’ve been discussing throughout the novel.  Basically, he addresses the paradox between predestination and free will.

Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be

This is how he opens the chapter, and then Helprin gives us a litany of examples, from the weather, to the daily routine of the milkman to the behavior of individual electrons

going precisely where they are supposed to go.

How is that to be squared with what Helprin terms “wonderful anarchy” ?  As he puts it:

the milkman chooses when to arise, the rat picks the tunnel into which he will dive when the subway comes rushing down the track from Borough Hall, and the snowflake will fall as it will.

Helprin’s answer?

Nothing is predetermined; it is determined, or was determined, or will be determined.  No matter, it all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas we have been given

And he directly says what some of his characters have theorized: time can be transcended, if only one steps back far enough to see it all.

The universe is still and complete.  Everything that ever was, is; everything that ever will be, is – and so on, in all possible combinations.

And he comes around to justice; the final words of this very brief chapter are:

when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time,justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but as something that is.


Almost everyone in the book is seeking justice, perfection, the promised land.  And Helprin has just given us the secret of how to find it…

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