Taking The Time Traveler’s Wife as a fixed time story, all its events simply happened. Henry can appear fully grown in the past before he has aged to maturity because when he does mature he will travel to the past. With replacement theory, it’s not as simple. If an adult Henry is to appear in the past, there must be a history in which he reached adulthood without arriving in the past, which he then alters by leaving from the future and arriving in the past.
That means that the first time he departs from his own present is the first time he arrives in the past, and no other version of him has arrived in the past yet because none has left from the not-yet-written future. We thus need to sequence the journeys according to departure dates.
This is not easy. We are not given events in the order in which either main character experiences them, but out of sequence in a chaotic disjunction in which we have arrivals without departures and departures without arrivals, in which the best clues to the departure date for an arrival is Henry’s hair and there are few clues to the time of that arrival. We are given a few pegs by which to connect the dots, but these are not all connected.
Henry converses with his mother on a subway. She mentions that her Henry is three. The headlines of her newspaper announce LBJ’s Vietnam 5-Point Plan–almost certainly the McNamara Plan of 1966. Henry thus was born in or about 1963; he first travels at six, around Christmas, when he vanishes from the car just before his mother has her fatal accident. He travels to two weeks earlier in the Christmas season, in 1969.
Clare is born May 24th, 1972. She is six years old the first time she meets him, putting that meeting in 1978.
She recorded every visit in her journal. He peeks at the journal to get that information; the first time he visits her, he tells her he will visit again the following Tuesday at four, information apparently obtained from the journal. However, the earliest recorded date we see in that journal is Wednesday January 21st nineteen eighty something, and she sees him again on Saturday February 14th and Sunday February 29th of that same year. It thus has to be leap year, and since she had not met him in 1976 when she was four it has to be 1980 when she was eight or 1984 when she was twelve. Since the next page is clearly marked March 1984, it can’t be 1988.
However, February 29th is not Sunday in either of those years. Further, the February calendar in her journal has thirty days (it’s printed–where did she get it?), and the March 1984 calendar on the next page begins on Tuesday, as it would if February 30th were Monday. It, too, does not match the actual 1984 calendar. It matches the March 1988 calendar, but the February calendar, having thirty days, is still wrong by a day. This also would put the journal out of sequence, because after the clearly visible dates of Tuesday March 8th and Friday March 25th 1984, there is an April calendar that cannot be clearly seen, followed by a reference on a subsequent page to a May 14th, 1986 arrival after a long absence, a November 19th 1987 arrival on the next page, and a July 3rd 1990 date on the next page. That date would be his visit to her when she was eighteen, the last time he visited her in the meadow in the past.
In 1995 after he is dating but before he marries Clare he appears to Gomez in an alley, having come from 2003 with the short hair that marks him as married.
During Clare’s last of several pregnancies he travels to meet his future daughter Alba. She is then ten, but tells him he died when she was five; he is thirty-eight at that time, and so dies when he is forty-three or forty-four (because she is not quite yet born and he dies on the Christmas following her birthday).
He arrives once more in the future after his death, when she is nine; he was thirty-nine when he departed, and Alba was a baby.
This is the extent of our fixed points, and they leave serious gaps in our knowledge. We know how old Clare was for most of their meetings until she was eighteen, and can guess that she meets him in the library in 1995 when she is about 23 and he about 32. Yet there are a lot of gaps and guesses here, and a difficult analysis ahead.