The fact that The Time Traveler’s Wife works as a fixed time story does not mean that it is entirely as it seems. One of the biggest assumptions the characters make in the movie is not true, and that makes the romance in some ways much less romantic. Clare is not the big event that draws Henry to the meadow.
The first time Henry meets Clare, in his experience, is in the library. She has met him and visited with him many times before, in her experience, because he keeps returning to the meadow behind her parents’ house. She tells him this, that apparently he is attracted to certain places; he says yes, big events draw him. Indeed, he later tells his father that he has seen his mother die many times, but can never arrive in time to prevent it. Clare suggests that she was a big event. He met her there; he married her there; he kissed her there.
However, she was not the big event that drew him there. If this is a fixed time story, she was incidental.
He never actually appears in the meadow; he appears in the woods near the meadow, precisely enough that the young Clare is able to leave clothes within sight of his point of arrival. Further, he knows that Clare is in the meadow nearby because he meets her in the library before he visits her at the house, and learns from her that she met him in the meadow behind her house. He never visited her in the meadow in the past until after he had been to her parents’ house in the future, and thus when he appeared in the woods he would have recognized the meadow and deduced that the girl was Clare, and walked from the woods to the meadow. He is not drawn to the meadow, though; he is drawn to the woods.
He appears in the woods in the place he was sitting when he was fatally shot by Clare’s father, who missed the buck standing near him and never saw the man who arrived and vanished, or the little girl (his grandaughter) who called to the man from some hidden place in the woods just before the fatal shot. That is the big event that brings him to the woods near the meadow; Clare just happens to be nearby.
It is thus not as romantic a story as we initially think–at least, not if it is a fixed time story, because as a fixed time story it must be taken as if all events have happened. Just as it is his mother’s death that brings Henry back repeatedly to the scene of the accident, so too it is his own death that brings him back within sight of the meadow and the little girl who falls in love with him.
It is a bit more romantic if we take it as a replacement theory story; it is also much more difficult to unravel. However, beginning with our next article we will attempt to do so.