Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams Analysis

Sylvia Plath

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s use of a first-person narrator may be a weakness, because the narrator is not necessarily easy to identify with. The story’s strongest, most effective technique is its use of detail, specifically the overwhelming accretion of the grotesque and the frightening, such as a woman whose tongue has swollen to hideous proportions, “the dirty yellow-soled bare feet” of patients lying on their sides during lumbar punctures, a story about the bombing of London that Miss Milleravage punctuates with a smile, the soulless and depressing objects of the office, the patient who is pathologically afraid of dirt and contamination, the bare light bulbs in their wire “cages,” and the neat cot where the narrator is to be held down and have electricity run through her brain.

Another effective and daring technical accomplishment of the story is its shift from ostensible realism to ostensible madness. The story begins as the realistic account of a high-strung but apparently normal young woman who has a secret hobby. She works in an office, where she happens to be fascinated with the dreams that are recorded in the medical record books. She eats lunch and reflects on the character of the people with whom she works.

Early in the story, it is daytime in a normal, recognizable world. Then the narrator waits for night to fall in the dark of the rest room, and a world of gothic horror replaces the sane one. In this other world, Johnny Panic rules...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Anderson, Robert. Little Fugue. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.

Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Bassnett, Susan. Sylvia Plath: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Brain, Tracy. The Other Sylvia Plath. New York: Longman, 2001.

Bundtzen, Lynda. Plath’s Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983.

Butscher, Edward. Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.

Butscher, Edward, ed. Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977.

Hall, Caroline King Barnard. Sylvia Plath. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Hughes, Frieda. Foreword to Ariel: The Restored Edition, by Sylvia Plath. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Hughes, Ted. Birthday Letters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

Kirk, Connie Ann. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Middlebrook, Diane. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath—a Marriage. New York: Viking, 2003.

Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Wagner, Erica. Ariel’s Gift. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.