“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman

by

Harlan Ellison

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Themes and Colors
Individuality and Resistance Theme Icon
The Power of Anonymity Theme Icon
Order, Class, and Authority Theme Icon
Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Individuality and Resistance

In the world of “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” society’s extreme emphasis on timekeeping and orderliness has resulted in an obedient, conformist population in which people rarely distinguish themselves from one another. One notable exception, however, is the Harlequin, so named for his jester-like costume. The Harlequin not only flouts the rigid schedules of the Ticktockman—an authority with the power to “turn off,” i.e. kill, those who fail to be on time—but also…

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The Power of Anonymity

In “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” the Harlequin is unacceptable to society because he is an individual in a world that has effectively outlawed individuality. Even more dangerously, however, he is able to assume a specifically anonymous identity, which both gives him enormous symbolic power and puts him on a level with the only other anonymous actor, the Ticktockman. Here Ellison highlights the subversive nature of an anonymous identity in a technologized, informational world…

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Order, Class, and Authority

Throughout “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” rigid adherence to an imposed order is characterized as necessary for the continued maintenance of society. This order, in turn, is inextricable from the class structures of the dystopian world that Ellison has created. In the society of the Harlequin and the Ticktockman, order—and timekeeping in particular—is used both to control individual citizens and to uphold an established social hierarchy, suppressing the lower classes and keeping those in…

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Technology, Productivity, and Totalitarianism

In the world of “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” the technology employed by the Ticktockman and his minions serves to both characterize and maintain their power. In particular, this technology allows them to control the populace with lethal force, and to ensure the productivity of workers and the economy. Ellison highlights the ways in which technology—including industrial technology and timekeeping, along with their resultant emphasis on productivity and uniformity—can lead a society toward totalitarianism and…

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