In this essay, I will be analyzing Dreamland by Sarah Dessen for feminist themes. Sarah Dessen is not a self-proclaimed feminist, but this book does have topics that relate strongly to feminism. It is a book about intimate partner violence, family dynamics, and a girl’s journey to self-discovery. It starts out as a typically books where a female meets a “bad boy”, but things soon take a dangerous turn. It shows how power and control in relationships can be very unhealthy, and also focuses the blame on the perpetrator, instead of the victim like many other books fall in the trap of. The book also, like most, has some downfalls, most clearly is the lack of diversity within the characters. While this book might not be intentionally feminist, I think it shows many feminist themes when depicting the families dynamic, the abusive relationship, and the aftermath of the relationship.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen is about a 16-year-old girl, Caitlin, who wakes up one morning to find out her older sister had runaway instead of going to college. Caitlin has always felt as though she was in her sister’s shadow, and is forced into the forefront when her sister disappears. She soon meets Rogerson, and see’s a way to reinvent herself as completely different from her sister, through him. In the beginning, they are inseparable, her coming along with him when he sells drugs, and becoming immersed in his danger. However, he soon starts to become controlling, and begins to hit her when she is late, or talked to a male classmate. Caitlin never tells a soul about what was happening; because she loved the way he makes her feel, like she hasn’t always been in second place her entire life. She soon becomes to long the invisibility she once felt, to get away from being hurt from him. In the end, someone see’s what is happening and she goes to rehab, figuring out who she is and why she can’t let him go.
In Dreamland, its focus on family was especially interesting. Caitlin’s family’s lives were consumed with her sister, Cass, running away. Her mother became obsessed with trying to find where Cass went, and her father became withdrawn and the silent support for the mother. Caitlin described her mother as the emotion of the family, while the father was the fact-keeper. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions describe a traditional marriage as the husband providing the family wage and the wife will take primary responsibility for the home and children (WV, FV 365). The book seemed to imply that their marriage was very much like that before Cass ran away, but once she did things changed. Caitlin’s mother was not focused on Caitlin at all, instead searching continuously for Cass while ignoring the house and Caitlin. Caitlin’s father expressed more interest in Caitlin’s whereabouts, but mostly focused on the mother and trying to help her.
The relationship between Rogerson and Caitlin started out strangely. They met at a party, where she was expected to hang out with her cheerleader...