Character Identity Analysis of "Dream Stuff"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main character of Malouf's story, "Dream Stuff" is captured by "the incredible which is the very essence of dreams”; that is, he journeys into his memories in order to recover "some defining image" of his family members and friends by which he can better know himself while remembering them. For instance, in recalling his father, who crawled under the house in order to retrieve him as a boy who clung to his dying dog, Colin realizes that his father's face resembles his. So, to learn more about the father, who died during war, Colin takes a notebook he has found in which his father recorded his tour of Greek ruins along with him when he visits Athens. There he is surprisingly given a tour by a man named Georgios, who breathes life into the notes of his father; in fact, Colin almost expects his father to suddenly appear; instead, Georgios mysteriously disappears.

After he returns to the town of his birth and childhood, Colin finds his "earliest and most vulnerable" self. Still, he greets the memories with "the delight of recovery" as he recalls the close relationship with his cousin Corrie. However, "the alliance between them could only be fleeting," Colin perceives. Indeed, whether in real time or in "dream stuff," there is a transience to all relationships. When, for example, as an adult Colin corresponds with his mother about his writing and his feelings, there develops a closer relationship between them, yet when he proposes visiting her, although agreeing to this arrangement, his mother stalls until it is too late as she dies. Colin feels it is as though she were afraid to confront feelings in unclothed reality.

Finally, just as he feels he has recovered some "defining image" of himself and his family, Colin is immersed in a surreal episode that he states he would never he try to use it in his own fiction that he writes. For, Colin is accosted by a stranger who attacks him for an unknown reason; Colin fights back and the man, then, tries to slit his own throat in his "anguish so intense that the only escape was into self-extinction." The police arrest Colin and incarcerate him until his cousin's husband bails him out. After this, Colin joins those who are blindfolded and taken to the marijuana fields to work, reaping "the dream stuff," the stuff that can soothe the inescapable, entangled memories--real or imagined. It would seem, then, that Colin has uncovered and regained more of his identity in this journey of memory. Yet, his recovery of self has not been clearly defined as the lines of reality have been menaced by the final encounter with a stranger, an encounter that so traumatizes him that he seeks escape from his lasting vulnerability.

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