The White Hotel Essay - Critical Essays

D. M. Thomas


Thomas earned his reputation as a writer of science-fiction poetry, but with the publication of The White Hotel, he established himself as an important novelist. The White Hotel is an example of a common technique in fantasy fiction, that of creating plots to mirror alternate worlds. In the case of Lisa, the alternate worlds are different representations of a life as complex and intricate as the story that contains it. Using a variety of documents, Thomas conflates “facts” with “interpretations” and repression with desire, exploring the boundary between the private/subjective and public/objective representations of the existential life. Blending narrative devices, dream imagery, and shifting points of view, Thomas also ironically appropriates the tools of psychoanalysis to construct a dramatic critique of Freud’s methodology.

The chapters, interconnected by cross-referencing, are a catalog of classical Freudian psychic symbols that reinforce the structural integrity of the novel. Multivalent imagery is blended from one story to another, duplicating significance while interrelating context thematically, structurally, and imagistically. The prologue begins with correspondence between Freud and his colleague Sandor Ferenczi, a reminder that the fictional story of The White Hotel is based on a factual historical premise: Freud’s analytical techniques. Chapter 1 is a poem that Lisa scribbled as marginal notes in the...

(The entire section is 557 words.)