“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman

by

Harlan Ellison

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The Ticktockman Character Analysis

The Ticktockman is the highest authority in the world of the story, an imposing masked figure able to control the technology that regulates times and metes out life and death to citizens. If someone is tardy too many times, the Ticktockman has the power to turn off his “cardioplate,” essentially stopping his heart and killing him. While this technology infuses every level of society, the Ticktockman is the only one who understands and controls it. As with the Harlequin, the Ticktockman’s name is an alias. Subordinates whisper the nickname behind his back and call him Master Timekeeper to his face. That his real name is never revealed suggests that the man underneath the mask is irrelevant, and that the Ticktockman is larger than life and symbolic of this society’s frighteningly oppressive and authoritarian nature; even his own coworkers fear him. The Ticktockman is thus directly threatened by the Harlequin’s subversion and hunts him down in order to quash the challenge to the status quo that he represents. The Ticktockman does succeed in capturing and subduing the Harlequin, but by the conclusion of the story it’s implied that the Ticktockman’s world has been thrown slightly off-kilter, as the Ticktockman himself is shown to be several minutes late.

The Ticktockman Quotes in “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman

The “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman quotes below are all either spoken by The Ticktockman or refer to The Ticktockman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Open Road edition of “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman published in 2014.
‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman Quotes

“This is what he is, said the Ticktockman with genuine softness, “but not who he is. This time-card I'm holding in my left hand has a name on it, but it is the name of what he is, not who he is. The cardioplate here in my right hand is also named, but not whom named, merely what named. Before I can exercise proper revocation, I have to know who this what is.”

Related Characters: The Ticktockman (speaker), The Harlequin
Related Symbols: Masks and Costumes
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

“Why let them order you about? Why let them tell you to hurry and scurry like ants or maggots? Take your time! Saunter a while! Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the breeze, let life carry you at your own pace! Don't be slaves of time, it's a helluva way to die, slowly, by degrees . . . down with the Ticktockman!”

Related Characters: The Harlequin (speaker), The Ticktockman
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

After all, his name was Everett C. Marm, and he wasn't much to begin with, except a man who had no sense of time.

Related Characters: The Harlequin, The Ticktockman
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

“I hate it. It's a terrible world.”

“Not everyone thinks so. Most people enjoy order.”

“I don't, and most of the people I know don't.”

Related Characters: The Harlequin (speaker), The Ticktockman (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

“Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don't know how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes late. The schedule is a little, uh, bit off.”

He grinned sheepishly.

“That's ridiculous!” murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. “Check your watch.” And then he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee.

Related Characters: The Ticktockman (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman LitChart as a printable PDF.
“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman PDF

The Ticktockman Character Timeline in “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman

The timeline below shows where the character The Ticktockman appears in “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
The Power of Anonymity Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
...has become something of a notorious celebrity, officials have turned the case over to the Ticktockman. (full context)
The Power of Anonymity Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
A tall, silent presence behind a mask, the Ticktockman is called only “Master Timekeeper” to his face; no one wants to offend the man... (full context)
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
...minutes, this disruption is a “disaster” that jams up the entire finely-tuned system that the Ticktockman runs. Because of this, he is ordered to appear before the Ticktockman. (full context)
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
...lower classes, the misfits, the Harlequin himself—are fully aware of the constricting nature of the Ticktockman’s order. (full context)
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
...the same time horrified and relieved.” While Marsh tries to escape the justice of the Ticktockman by fleeing deep into the Canadian forest, his heart is stopped by his cardioplate in... (full context)
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
...distracting shoppers and encouraging them to engage in activities that flout the order of the Ticktockman. He calls out to them, “Why let them order you about? Why let them tell... (full context)
The Power of Anonymity Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
The Ticktockman grows angrier with each of the Harlequin’s continued acts of subversion and renews the intensity... (full context)
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
The Harlequin and the Ticktockman finally confront each other face to face. The Ticktockman urges him to repent, and gives... (full context)
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
The Power of Anonymity Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
...a broadcast during which he renounces his old defiance and praises the society of the Ticktockman. Those who view the broadcast largely view the Harlequin’s repudiation of his former views as... (full context)
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
...Effectively illustrating  the incremental power of this sort of change, a sputtering underling tells the Ticktockman that he is “three minutes late” and that the schedule is now off. The Ticktockman... (full context)