Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams Summary

Sylvia Plath


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator, a young assistant in a large metropolitan hospital’s psychology clinic, obsessively transcribes patients’ dreams, which she memorizes from their hospital records, into a book that she calls her bible of dreams. In her book, Johnny Panic is the god. In order to read more of the patients’ dreams, she hides in the women’s room until she thinks that everyone has left the office. (Practical difficulties and fears keep her from sneaking the records home.) When she returns to the office and begins to read the medical records, she is caught by the clinic director. He ushers her to another floor in the hospital, where Miss Milleravage (the narrator cannot remember the name exactly) gleefully chases her, seizes her dream notebook, and overpowers her. With a bedside “Tch, tch,” Miss Milleravage and the director chide her for believing in Johnny Panic. The narrator realizes that she is about to be given electroshock treatment. She is stunned with fear but trusts Johnny Panic not to forget his own.

The young woman sees herself as a connoisseur of dreams, which she reads, memorizes, and compiles from medical records, savoring them and playing them over in her mind. She also imagines what is in the dreams of patients whose records she does not see. She identifies the patients by their real or imagined dreams, rather than by their names.

The narrator also has her own dream—one of complete terror, in which she is suspended over a...

(The entire section is 483 words.)