The Reality of Dreams
In the novel, Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M Coetzee, the magistrate’s progressive, non-linear dreams are a parallel to his growing involvement with the barbarians and his growing distaste for the empire. The great psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud said, “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious.” In every dream there is a hidden meaning and when the reader starts analyzing the magistrate’s dreams he reveals that he is oddly attracted to the barbarians and knows he should not get involved and it will be a trial to get close to them.
At the beginning to the book the magistrate is just an innocent bystander. He works for the Empire and does as he is told with a blind unquestioning eye. The reader sees him start to sympathize with the barbarians when he helps a little boy enduring inhumane torture. From then on the magistrate wants less and less to do with the Empire. As he helps the boy he says, “I feel my heart grow heavy. I never wished to be drawn into this.” (Coetzee 8) He also helps a barbarian girl by taking her in when he sees her on the street begging for money. He is very fond of her. She has been beaten harshly by the Empire and the magistrate says, “the distance between myself and her torturers, I realize, is negligible; I shudder.” He grows to hate the Empire and their unjust actions.
In one of the magistrate’s dreams, he dreams of a hooded girl. This girl automatically reminds the readers of the barbarian girl. He always struggles to reach her, see her or even talk to her. As he tries to reach her he says, “My feet sink so deep that I can barely lift them. Each step takes an age”. (Coetzee 59) In reality, the magistrate is also having a hard time getting close to the girl. He wants to be with her, but is she pushes him away. In the same dream there are also children playing and building a snowman. He wants to help them,in their attempt, but decides against it. All of the magistrate’s feelings and actions toward the barbarians in real life are projected onto the barbarian girl and the children in his dreams. He is allured to them, but it is a struggle to get close to them because he is not supposed to.
Based on Sigmund Freud studies, the Id is our primitive desires and these desires flow freely in our dreams because we are not trying to repress them. In reality we cannot say or do anything we want because there are consequences. In dreams, desires run free. The fact that the magistrate is even dreaming of the barbarians in any manner reveals his attraction to them. It is often tough to interpret a dream, but readers can infer the meaning through dreams classic symbols. There is a lot of symbolism in this novel. The snowy setting is very symbolic. There is a lot of snowing in his dreams. J.M. Coetzee could have went a lot of directions with what the snow actually symbolizes. The color of the snow, white, symbolizes purity and innocence. Snow also symbolizes...