There is a moment early in Peter Carey’s novel Oscar and Lucinda when Theophilus Hopkins, unable to deter his son Oscar from leaving home, warns him, ‘You are

travelling down the tide of time.’ You have chosen, says Theophilus, ‘to throw away

the chart our Lord has revealed to you’ (Carey 1988: 65). What Theophilus does not

know, and the novel comes to reveal, is that he is talking about ‘History’. History

moves forward to gather in the future as well as looking backwards to gather up the

past. History is as inevitable to Theophilus as time itself: history is time’s narrative, a

story from which Oscar will not be able to escape. In this scene Theophilus sums up

the ideology of imperial history: sequentiality, inevitability, purpose, authority; a

teleology that is divinely ordained. The father’s warning alerts us to what is at stake in

Oscar’s rebellion, and what underlies the novel’s depiction of a journey of discovery:

the problematizing of European History. But it also alerts us to the function of history

in Theophilus’s way of seeing the world. For history is grounded on an authority as

transparent as time itself.