People are so fascinated by dreams that even many of our literary works are filled with references to them. The Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge seemed especially susceptible to translating their dreams and nightmares into prose and poems. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) also translated his dream imagery into literature. Lewis Carroll created a whole world from several dreams he had, and he wrote these worlds into his well-known books, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. When Alice entered her dream world created by Mr. Carroll, she entered a world that many of us are familiar with. It’s a world where reality changes from moment to moment, and the rules never seem to apply. You see things and people as they are, and others as you wish they would be. Also, like Alice, dreamers are confronted by their fears. Alice faced the ultimate in fear when she confronted the Red Knight. Even though she felt the unreality of the situation, it seemed real to her. It seemed so real that when the Red Knight told her she would cease to exist when he awoke from his dream, that she not only believed him, but was terrified that she truly would cease to exist.
Sometimes, it is only with this kind of dream imagery that an author can bring across the intense emotion and fear that he needs to for his reader to understand a situation or character. It’s a type of powerlessness that comes across, a feeling we’ve all experienced at one time or another. A feeling that our life is out of control, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Most of the time we wake up from a dream of this sort, panting, in a cold sweat. These types of dreams also seem to stay with us all throughout the day. I think Cathy (Emily Bronte’s heroine in Wuthering Heights) probably said it best, “…these dreams that stayed with me; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.”
Shakespeare was exceedingly fond of using dream allegory, and even wrote a play about dreams and dreamers called A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Shakespeare was quite aware of the impact of dreams on people, and he used this to help the audience relate to his characters. Prospero, the magician from the Tempest, suggests that life is merely a dream, “…We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Edgar Allen Poe expressed much the same sentiment in his poem, A Dream Within a Dream, when he said, “…All that we see or seem, Is but a dream within a dream.” This may lead one to wonder then, which is the dream and which is the reality? Maybe asking that is the ultimate confrontation with ourselves. Because if we can’t face ourselves in waking life, perhaps we have to do so in our dreams.
Try Michael’s Dream Symbols for more information about dreams and dream symbols.