Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dream Sequences

I dislike dream sequences in movies and books. I do not like to listen to someone describe their own dreams. Dreams disappear from our conscious memory almost immediately because they are only mental housekeeping functions. Dreams may have significance in therapy because they shine a light, but to me, they are utterly boring. That said, Lockwood’s dual nightmare sequence in Chapter 3 of Wuthering Heights is most compelling.

The first part of the dream describes Lockwood and a servant, Joseph, going to hear a famous pastor preach from the text “Seventy Times Seven” and it appears that either Lockwood or Joseph has committed the “First of the Seventy-First” sins and were to be publicly exposed and excommunicated. Lockwood sits through a sermon of four hundred and ninety parts, each a full-length sermon on a separate sin. Lockwood wonders where the pastor found so many different sins, some previously unknown to Lockwood. When he tires of this sermon, he stands up and exhorts the congregation to pull the pastor down from the pulpit and "crush him to atoms". Instead, the pastor shouts "Thou art the man!" (and I thought "your're the man!" was a modern "hip" phrase...ha!), the congregation sets upon Lockwood and begins to beat him to smithereens. He hears loud tapping noises from the pulpit, wakes up, and realizes the noise is coming from fir boughs rattling against the window panes. He falls back asleep and dreams again.

Another nightmare, worse than before:

This time, I rememberd I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir-bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into a staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. "I must stop it, nevertheless!" I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, "Let me in - let me in!" "Who are you?" I asked, struggling, meanwhile to disengage myself. "Catherine Linton," it replied, shiveringly...I'm come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!" As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed "Let me in!" and maintained its tenacious grip, almost maddening me with fear..."

He pulled the child's wrist onto the broken pane and rubbed it back and forth! I am not sure if even Stephen King could conjure up such an image! Both nightmares set up an atmosphere of dread early in the story and set the scene with just the right feeling of gothic creepiness. So, thank you Emily Bronte, for helping me to understand that dream sequences can serve a useful purpose.

1 comment:

  1. I've never read Wuthering Heights. You know me and the "classics"... not really a fan. But the descriptiveness of that dream sequence is enough to make me shudder with chill on a cozy Friday morning, sitting at my desk at work! The description isn't written with such great detail that you have to piece together parts of this single incident. She doesn't describe the palor of the skin of said little girl, she doesn't describe the smells or sounds coming from outside the periphery. You're just there, at the window, in the dream, just like the dreamer. It doesn't have to be complicated or detailed and drawn out to have an impact. I love it!