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Dream And Meaning: A Psychological Analysis Of Wid Essay, Research Paper

Dream and Meaning: A Psychological Analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea At the turn of the century, Sigmund Freud educated the population with his important book Interpretation of Dreams. Since then, dreams and the study of dreams, often referred to as psychoanalysis, has been closely linked to understanding not only real-life situations and people, but literary understandings of characters and their fictional situations. In the endeavor to interpret “the dream,” the reader of a text is constructing real representations that can help them make sense of symbolic codes of discourse. I will look at both the novel and film of Wide Sargasso Sea, in which two different approaches are being represented in the form of “the dream.” While these approaches are different in form, the meaning is essentially the same. The best place to begin this analysis is with the novel. In the novel the only person who ever has any dream passages is Antoinette, the main heroine. The dream passages are very important to the novel in that they give us a deeper understanding of Antoinette’s situation and reveal her fears and anxieties. We follow Antoinette’s physical and emotional growth through her dreams. These dreams tell their own story. If they were to be removed from the novel altogether, they would easily represent the symbolic message of the entire novel on their own. In other words, they act as a collective whole – or as a collective psychology of Antoinette’s meaning as a character. The first dream passage appears in the early part of the novel when Antoinette is a young child. She has come to realize that her family’s position in Jamaican society is one that is looked down upon and hated for the fact that her father was a slave owner. Because she and her mother are of Creole descent, and her mother is remarried to an Englishman, many of the Jamaican servants and slaves dislike their presence at Coulibri. Also, she has recently learned that she has a half-brother, Daniel, who is black and who is also a slave. Antoinette’s stepfather, Mr. Mason, does not know about Daniel. In order to keep him from finding out, Antoinette’s mother has arranged for money to be given to Daniel to keep him quiet. These details are important because they reflect Antoinette’s state of mind. In the first dream passage Antoinette recounts in first person:I dreamed that I was walking in the forest. Not alone. Someone who hated me was with me, out of sight. I could hear heavy footsteps coming closer and though I struggled and screamed I could not move. (27) When Antoinette awakens, she finds her mother near her bedside. Shortly after this, there is a monologue of Antoinette’s thoughts concerning her dream. She says, “I lay thinking, ‘I am safe. There is the corner of the bedroom door and friendly furniture. There is the tree of life in the garden and the wall green with moss. The barrier of the cliffs and the high mountains. And the barrier of the sea. I am safe. I am safe from strangers’”(27). What is ironic about this passage is that she is not safe. The innocent child in her looks towards the familiar, safe things that never change like the sea and the mountains. But these things, safe and stable as they seem, do not keep their promise. Shortly after this dream, her house is burned down by the Jamaican slaves, her brother is killed, and her mother eventually goes mad. But, aside from these facts, we need to look at the dream passage and try to make sense of the “someone” who hates her, but is “out of sight.” It appears in this passage that this “someone” is more of a plural representation, which is also a bit ambiguous. Certainly, it must represent, on some level, the Jamaican slaves and her brother Daniel. But, when one goes back and does a re-reading and compares it to the next two dream passages, it is obvious that it also represents Mr. Rochester. It is a foreshadowing of what Antoinette’s relationship will be like with Mr. Rochester, and represents a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. The second dream passage occurs just after Antoinette has learned that Mr. Mason has set her up to marry an Englishman. It is a continuation of the first dream, only in this time there is more detail. Again, Antoinette describes it to us in the first person saying:Again I have left the house at Coulibri. It is still night and I am walking towards the forest. I am wearing a long dress and thin slippers, so I walk with difficulty, following the man who is with me and holding up the skirt of my dress. It is white and beautiful and I don’t wish to get it soiled. I follow him, sick with fear but I make no effort to save myself; if anyone were to try and save me, I would refuse. This must happen. Now we have reached the forest. We are under the tall dark trees and there is no wind. ‘Here?’ He turns and looks at me, his face black with hatred, and when I see this I begin to cry. He smiles slyly. ‘Not here. Not yet,’ he says, and I follow him weeping. Now I do not try to hold up my dress, it trails in the dirt, my beautiful dress. We are no longer in the forest but in an enclosed garden surrounded by a stone wall and the trees are different trees. I do not know them. There are steps leading upwards. It is too dark to see the wall or the steps, but I know they are there and I think, ‘It will be when I go up these steps. At the top.’ I stumble over my dress and cannot get up. I touch a tree and my arms hold on to it. ‘Here, here.’ But I think I will not go any further. The tree sways and jerks as if it is trying to throw me off. Still I cling and the seconds pass and each one is a thousand years. ‘Here, in here,’ a strange voice said, and the tree stopped swaying and jerking. (59-60) The key phrase(s) in this passage which prove that Antoinette’s dreams are a type of self-fulfilling prophecy resonate in “I make no effort to save myself; if anyone were to try and save me, I would refuse. This must happen.” At this point, we as readers are not certain why Antoinette feels this way, but it is obvious she feels her marriage has to take place, and that it has to be with the Englishman. Again, this dream passage means more to the reader once one has finished the book. For example, at this stage in the novel, we may only assume Antoinette is juxtaposing Jamaica with England. Once we have read the novel, we know she is juxtaposing the two. We also know that England, and more specifically, Mr. Rochester’s house, will be her dungeon. In other words, Jamaica was her freedom, and England will become her jail. Both of these settings are manipulated and influenced by Mr. Rochester’s presence.

The end of Antoinette’s dream comes near the end of the novel, after she has been taken to England by Mr. Rochester. She says, “That was the third time I had my dream, and it ended”(187). Here, everything that has been ambiguous falls into place and yields rich meaning. At the beginning of the dream, Antoinette has escaped her dungeon room and has set the house on fire with candles she found. The dream continues:I knew how to get away from the heat and the shouting, for there was shouting now. When I was on the battlements it was cool and I could hardly hear them. I sat there quietly. I don’t know how long I sat. Then I turned round and saw the sky. It was red and all my life was in it. I saw the grandfather clock and Aunt Cora’s patchwork, all colours, I saw the orchids and the stephanotis and the jasmine and the tree of life in flames. I saw the chandelier and the red carpet downstairs and the bamboos and the tree ferns, the gold ferns and the silver, and the soft green velvet of the moss on the garden wall. I saw my doll’s house and the books and the picture of the Miller’s Daughter. I heard the parrot call as he did when he saw a stranger, Qui est la? Qui est la? And the man who hated me calling too, Bertha! Bertha! The wind caught my hair and it streamed out like wings. It might bear me up, I thought, if I jumped to those hard stones. But when I looked over the edge I saw the pool at Coulibri. Tia was there. She beckoned me and when I hesitated she laughed. I heard her say, You frightened? And I heard the man’s voice, Bertha! Bertha! All this I saw and heard in a fraction of a second. And the sky so red. Someone screamed and I thought Why did I scream? I called ‘Tia!’ and jumped and woke. (189-190) When Antoinette awakens, the ending paragraph of the novel, Antoinette says, “Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do”(190). And, so the reader is left to assume that Antoinette will carry out the end of her dream. This last dream passage unites the two opposing forces of the death of her innocence at Coulibri and the death of her love and devotion to Mr. Rochester in England. The destructive fire that ruined her life at Coulibri is now her savior and release from her desolate life in England. Now, she has realized that she is not frightened any more. The idea that “I make no effort to save myself” has been dispelled. Unfortunately, it is not the “saving” the reader has hoped for. Instead, it is a moral saving, which leads her to kill herself as a means of escaping her hopelessly destined life. This tragedy is paralleled, but with more poignancy, to Antoinette’s mother’s life and death. It represents the whole framework of the novel, and it is also through this parallel that the meaning of the film is symbolized. The dream passages in the film are quite different and are shown through not only Antoinette, but Mr. Rochester too. For those of the audience who have read the book, the film plays on the audiences prior knowledge of the dreams that are in the book, but it also adds its own twist by showing us the dreams of Mr. Rochester. Antoinette’s dreams in the film are simply there to fill in gaps of knowledge about Antoinette’s life. They act as a narrator, in a sense, attempting to guide the unread viewer along. The juxtaposition of Antoinette’s dreams in the film is slightly different from the book, but their purpose is to show the parallel between Antoinette’s life and her mother’s life. Indeed, the film is faithful to the ending of the novel, for we hear Antoinette’s voice-over say, “Now I know what I must do in this house where I am cold and not belonging. I will dream the end of my dream.” The meaning is the same, only expressed in a slightly different fashion. However, the addition of Mr. Rochester’s dreams is an added dimension worth some exploration. Mr. Rochester’s first dream in the film comes just after he has read the letter sent to him by Daniel. This letter, reproduced through voice-over, has informed Mr. Rochester that he has been misled about Antoinette’s family and heritage. It also comes at a time when he has had problems adjusting to Jamaican life, particularly the climate. As a result, Mr. Rochester dreams he is drowning in the seaweed of the Wide Sargasso Sea. (Historically, the seaweed is infamous for its value and richness in that area.) As the reeds entangle him, he sees Antoinette swimming up to him just before he awakens. The film attempts to show that the dream Mr. Rochester has is a reflection of his insecurities about living in Jamaica with a women who he knows nothing about, and who he thinks has lied to him. The fact that Antoinette shows up in his dream in this way, may be a symbol that he thinks of her as someone who might be able to save him, or protect him from the dangers of Jamaica. It could also mean that maybe she is the reason he feels he is metaphorically drowning. The dream is continued in a second dream that takes place just after he is drugged by Antoinette. The obeah mixture causes him to dream that he is again drowning in the seaweed. But, this time, there is no Antoinette and he becomes even more entangled and unable to free himself. At this stage, Mr. Rochester has become aware that his life with Antoinette in Jamaica is becoming uncontrollable and destructive. This directly contrasts with Antoinette, in that, where Jamaica is her safety and England her fear, the exact opposite is true of Mr. Rochester. Thus, the dreams appear to function as a interior look at Mr. Rochester’s fears and anxieties. The film decides to show the audience this view, perhaps as a way of giving some additional insight into Mr. Rochester where the book does not. It makes Mr. Rochester appear more human to us, and of course, acts a parallel to Antoinette’s feelings and frustrations. To make sense of this story, I think the film relies more on the book than it stands on its own. It seems to fill in the blanks we have as readers of the novel, but adds its own originality to the story-telling, thereby giving us a glimpse into a fictional world through realistic representations. Thus, the meaning in not lost in the film adaptation. Actually, it becomes more heightened and more real to us. The use of dreams in both texts allows us in to the consciousness and unconsciousness of the characters and their situations. Without the dream, the novel and the film would certainly lose such depth and meaning.

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton, 1996. (Reprint) Wide Sargasso Sea. Dir. John Duigan. Fineline Features, 1993.

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