The Philosophy of Time Travel is a book which features heavily in the movie Donnie Darko.

Warning! If you have not yet watched Donnie Darko, this node contains possible spoilers to some of the more elaborate elements of plot. You have been warned.

Written by Roberta Sparrow (or Grandma Death) in October 1944, it is intended as 'a simple and direct guide in a time of great danger'. Donnie is given the book in October 1988 by his science teacher, Prof. Monnitoff, during a time in which Donnie is experiencing several strange and surreal events, not the least of which is a jet engine crashing through the roof of his house. A jet engine which has not been reported missing from any plane.

The book is divided up into several chapters, each of which are described below.

  • Foreword
    The foreword contains a short introduction by Roberta Sparrow, and ends with the words:

    I pray that this is merely a work of fiction.

    If it is not, then I pray for you, the reader of this book.

    If I am still alive when the events foretold in these pages occur, then I hope that you will find me before it is too late.

  • The Tangent Universe
    This describes the concept of the Primary Universe, which we inhabit, the Fourth Dimension of Time, and the highly unstable Tangent Universe. The formation of a Tangent Universe is an extremely dangerous event, which can cause the collapse and destruction of the Primary Universe. The purpose of the book is to serve as a guide for the one chosen to end the Tangent Universe, and thus protect the Primary Universe.

  • Water and Metal
    The two key elements in time travel are water and metal. Water is the element used to construct Time Portals, and metal is used to construct Artifact Vessels.

  • The Artifact and the Living
    The Artifact is a metallic object which signals the formation of a Tangent Universe, and appear under mysterious and inexplicable circumstances. The Living are drawn to the Artifact, and driven to try to discover its origin.

  • The Living Receiver
    The Living Receiver is the person chosen to guide the Artifact back into the Primary Universe, thus closing the Tangent Universe before it can fatally collapse. The Living Receiver is also blessed with supernatural powers during the time of the Tangent Universe: increased strength and mind control as examples. The Living Receiver is also tormented by dreams and visions during his time within the Tangent Universe: a sign that things are not right.

  • The Manipulated Living
    The Manipulated Living are often close friends or people around the Living Receiver, which in turn is centred on the Artifact. The Manipulated Living are prone to irrational behaviour: a result of their task to assist the Living Receiver in returning the Artifact to the Primary Universe.

  • The Manipulated Dead
    The Manipulated Dead are more powerful than the Living Receiver: these are people which have died within the span of the Tangent Universe, and can cross the Fourth Dimensional barrier to communicate with the Living Receiver. They will also manipulate events such that there is no choice but to return the Artifact to the Primary Universe.

The website contains more information on The Philosophy of Time Travel, including a list detailing the Living Receiver, Manipulated Living and Manipulated Dead within the movie.

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