Dreams have always been an huge part of literature and are depicted in various ways by writers. From surreal and mystical to vivid and terrifying, dreams have played a significant role in shaping the plot, character development and themes of numerous books. In this article, we will take a look at five famous dreams in books that have left a lasting impact on readers.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is one of the most iconic books of the 20th century, and the way it shows/depicts dreams is a big reason why. The novel’s protagonist, Jay Gatsby (played by Leonardo Di Caprio in the film adaptation), is a very wealthy man who throws hugely extravagant parties in the hope of winning back his lost love,, Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s dream is to return to the past and reclaim the life he had with Daisy, but as the novel continues, it becomes clear that his dream is impossible to achieve. Maybe even at odds with the world. Though the dream shifts between literal and metaphor – the book itself is written in a way that makes the definition of ‘dream’ vague. The classic literary trope of, ‘was it all a dream?’
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play with the set in the magical and surreal world of dreams. The play features a group of lovers who get involved in a world of fairies, magic, and confusion, all of which are brought about by the dream-like atmosphere of the forest. Classic Shakespearean fiction. The play explores the themes of love, desire, and the power of the imagination, and its dreamy setting is a huge part of its century-long success. Shakespeare fiction is quite clearly influenced by dreams and magic. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the best example of that.
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a magical realist novel that tells the story of the Buendia family over the course of several generations. The novel features a recurring dream experienced by several members of the family. This dream serves as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of time and the repetition of history. The dream teaches us about how everything is connected – a la tree of life & the ever important lesson of breaking free from the cycle of repetition. Something everyone gets stuck in, in the modern capitalist world. This book covers complex topics like intergenerational trauma and weaves them into the surrealness of dreaming and magic.
4. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
The Interpretation of Dreams is a seminal work by Sigmund Freud that explores the role of dreams in the unconscious mind. In the book, Freud argues that dreams are a manifestation of repressed desires and unconscious thoughts, and he provides a detailed analysis of the symbols and themes that appear in dreams. The Interpretation of Dreams is considered one of the most important works in the field of psychology. It continues to be widely read and studied today. I covered his work in more detail here. Must-read for anyone interested in the modern European origins of dream analysis.
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic children’s book. It features a young girl called Alice who falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a strange and dream-like world. The story may be familiar to most. The world of Wonderland is surreal and fantastical, filled with talking animals, playing cards, and a mischievous cat. Bizarre! The book explores the themes of growing up, identity, and the power of the imagination, and its dream-like setting has captured the hearts of readers for generations. I grew up reading this and lots of kids today continue to do so.
Whether they are surreal, mystical, or vivid, the dreams shared above have helped to shape the plot, character development, and themes of the books they appear in. I personally enjoy all of these books and it’s not an exhaustive collection – I’ll be sure to share more as I find them. For similar content, check out 5 Famous Dreams in Films