What Can Timeturners Teach Us?

By Paige Crawley

Timeturners present a number of conundrums. Many fans have spent huge amounts of time trying to decode the exact inner workings of the timeturner, or deciding whether or not they support linear or circular time theory. Underneath the physical aspect of this device, we can look at the literary significance of the timeturner, and what we can learn from the events surrounding them.

The first question to ask is, ‘How on earth did a thirteen year old girl get one of these?” In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione warns Harry that misusing timeturners can have disastrous repercussions and she also mentions that it is incredibly difficult to procure one. Therefore, one can assume that using a timeturner simply to take more classes is rather out of the ordinary. Anyone who went through the trouble to get one must have immense trust in the intended recipient, and in this case, it’s Professor McGonagall. McGonagall has always shown a special interest in Hermione, perhaps due to her exceptional skill in Transfiguration, or, maybe, McGonagall sees herself in Hermione. This is likely, since McGonagall goes to great lengths to help Hermione. Without the timeturner, it would be much harder to spot a possible bond between Professor McGonagall and Hermione that is commonly overlooked.

The most influential uses of Hermione’s timeturner is to, A) save Buckbeak, and B) save Sirius. Even though Hermione knows she is breaking several rules by using the timeturner in this manner, she does it anyway. As a rule-follower, for the most part, Hermione would only break a rule if getting justice for innocents was a top priority. We know from Pottermore that she later continues to work as Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, following her passion for justice. Is the timeturner a gateway through which we get the first glimpse at Hermione’s greater motivations? Later she starts S.P.E.W., and we easily see Hermione prioritizing the distribution of justice, but the timeturner gives us our first look.

Choices are a consistent theme throughout the series, and the analysis of the timeturner provides an interesting point of view. On the surface, timeturners follow the theme of choices, but the deeper we go, the more apparent it is that they are much more tied to fate. In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Hermione have to replicate exactly what happened the first time they went through the night of Buckbeak’s execution when they go back in time. They realize that it is their future selves that throws the rock at Harry’s head and casts the Patronus Charm, meaning that Hermione’s choice to use the timeturner already happened (which gets very confusing when you look at different theories about time), and therefore practically fated to occur. This means that the choice Hermione makes is not really a choice at all, but almost destined. Does the timeturner imply that a choice is really just a superficial thing, and that they are fated to happen? On the other hand, one can completely ignore the fate aspect and claim that Hermione’s choice was already made because of circular time theory, and she could have not gone back. The timeturner, it appears, can be bent to whatever angle the reader wishes and they are just as flexible as they allow time to be.

In conclusion, timeturners are literary gateways, through which we can learn more about a character’s qualities because of their controversial nature. Hermione’s priorities, as well as McGonagall’s, are almost solely shown (up to this point in the series) through events surrounding the timeturner. The aspect of choices versus fate is much more complex, but provides interesting insight to the themes of the book and endless ideas to elaborate on. Timeturners may in themselves be confusing and non-conclusive, we can learn valuable information through what they cause.