Author: Jacqueline

The Knight Inventor (Looking Glass ch8)

We didn’t get to talk about chapter 8 yet, but I found the knight who invents things to be both one of the more mundane scenes but also a very dream-like scene. Having someone invent things that don’t quite work could easily happen in reality – the knight is like the white team’s weird uncle. But the way in witch things don’t work feels dreamy. He designs physical objects based on words (like hair can’t fall off if it’s stuck up because it wouldn’t be falling) rather than on physical realities of the problems he seeks to solve. It felt like dream logic that he would try to fix problems with this kind of solution. I think the extremity of his hoarding also added to the dream like quality. He didn’t even know what the plate was for, but now that he knows it’s for plum cake he can’t leave without it.

The Night Face Up and Which reality is real?

In our conversation about The Night Face Up many of us referred to the hospital scene as reality and the Aztec scene as the dream. However this is the opposite of the conclusion that the narrator comes to at the end of the story: “it smelled of death, and when he opened his eyes he saw the bloody figure of the high priest that came toward him with a stone knife in his hand. He was able to shut his eyelids once more, but now he knew that he would not wake, that he was awake, that the marvelous dream had been the other, absurd like all dreams; a dream in which he had ridden the strange avenues of an astonishing city” (Cortazar 5-6). The narrator decides what is real based on what comes last. But as readers we felt that what was real was what came first (and was more familiar). In both the dream and the reality he experienced similar sensations and events to the point where his senses were not useful in determining which was real. Although the narrator refers to the hospital scene by saying “the infinite lie of that dream” it’s impossible to know which is real if there is even an answer to the question. Both could be real. Both could be dreams.

Segismund and how to know what’s real

We talked in class about how strange it is that arguments for morality are made on the possibility of one being in a dream, but we did not really explore how Segismund initially reacts to the idea that he is dreaming. When Basil first suggests that Segismund may be dreaming on page 54, Segismund responds “What could he mean? I, dreaming, when / All this is patent to my eyes? / I touch, I feel, and can devise / What I am now and was back then” (lines 1532 – 1535). Similar to our discussion in the first class, Segismund relies on his senses to tell him what is real. However, when he reawakens in the tower he decides that the time spent in court was a dream – so the evidence of his senses at the time was unreliable (or he believes it to have been). He then proceeds to act on a principle of uncertainty. It might be a dream or it might not so he acts in a way that he expects would work out in either case.

Later when he speaks with Rosaura again he takes what she says to be better evidence than his own memory: “If I had only dreamt I dwelt / Amid such luxury, how could / This woman have recounted what / I saw and seemed so plausible? / It was true then. That was no dream” (page 107, lines 2930 – 2934). Even though he no longer trusts his senses, he trusts the confirmation from another person independently recounting the events as he remembered them. So it seems that part of how people conceive reality is through consensus. If one person experienced something and no-one else did, the group might consider the one person to be crazy. But if many people experience something and one person does not, the one person is likely to accept that the experience of the others “really happened.”