Hanley’s use of an omniscient third-person narrator enables the reader to see how each of the characters thinks and feels. He shows the reader Clem’s frustration with his painting, Lena’s disillusionment with her husband, and the terror of the various tenants of the Chesil Place house during the German bombing. The prose with which Hanley communicates these characters’ emotions is idiomatic, highly individualized, and charged with emotion.
Despite the fact that the efforts of Clem Stevens to paint are squarely at the center of the plot of Hanley’s A Dream Journey, the protagonist of the novel is his wife, Lena. The painter’s death is not dramatized in the third part of the book. The focus is on the reactions of the Grimpens, the former art dealer Cruickshank, and Lena to Clem’s death, and its meaning is different for each of them. In the first section of the novel, the narrator enters Clem’s mind to record his fear of being left by Lena, his growing awareness that he has stopped functioning as an artist, and his paranoia when faced with the world outside his apartment. This characterization is deft, but it serves chiefly to underscore Lena’s dilemma. She has sacrificed as much as Clem in pursuit of his artistic success, and she accepts only reluctantly that his paintings never measure up to his intentions.
Hanley fills A Dream Journey with sets of character foils for the Stevens couple. In the first and third parts of the...
(The entire section is 557 words.)