Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Geography of a Horse Dreamer is a play about the making of art and the problems of the artist. In many respects Cody fits the familiar model of the Romantic artist: a genius, a seer. He possesses a gift that sets him apart from others, and the exercise of that gift, once a matter of effortless inspiration, now requires conscious labor.

On one level, the entire play—the stage space, the action, the characters—can be seen as a metaphor for the artist’s mind. The parallels that Sam Shepard draws between particular characters and various aspects of the process of making and selling art (“separate from each other and yet connected,” as the Doctor says) correspond to the conflicts experienced by artists who make a living by their art, especially the playwright, who is paid to put his or her dreams onstage and under public scrutiny. Cody is both misunderstood and exploited; much of the play is given to sketching the spectrum of responses an artist can expect to encounter, from Santee’s contempt to Beaujo’s clumsy faith to the clinical, businesslike analysis of the Doctor, who may be the playwright’s image of the typical drama critic. Fingers’s curious connection with Cody—his artistic affectations, his sympathy for the dreamer, his regret that he did not anticipate Cody’s disintegration and do something about it long ago, and his attempt to return with Cody to the great outdoors—suggests the divisive effect of these conflicts....

(The entire section is 428 words.)