A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world - Oscar Wilde  The quote listed above was used in the novel The...

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world

- Oscar Wilde 

The quote listed above was used in the novel The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Explain what relevance this quote has to the story? Which characters does this quote apply to? 

Asked on by dez-o

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Wilde's quote speaks to the elusive quality intrinsic to imagination. The individual who possesses it in the purest of forms sees that which is not there. They constantly stand at the precipice of envisioning something that others cannot see and become alienated as a result of it.  This condition or quality speaks to the entire creation of "The Night Circus."  It is a setting in which the circus activates "ethereal enigmas" and represents a world of conditionality.  As evident in acts such as the illusionist and the fortune teller, Wilde's notion of how "the dreamer" envisions a world "by moonlight" and transforms what is into what can be. At an early point in the narrative, Prospero suggests that "People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.” This speaks to how the circus functions.  It constructs a vision out of imagination. Given how the Night Circus operates while others sleep, the entire concept is representative of seeing "the dawn before the rest of the world."

Celia is another example of a character that could embody Wilde's quote.  She finds her "way by moonlight" in seeking to better understand the conditions of the competition.  She understands how it comes to an end, when so many others, notably Prospero and Mr. A.H, perpetuate the competition with no end in sight.  Celia embodies Wilde's quote in her actions of saving Marco.  Celia's act is a transformative one, as it changes both into spirits.  At the same time, she recognizes the end of the traditionally antagonistic condition of the circus, something that she sees "by moonlight."  Her living as a ghostly spirit is a logical consequence of seeing "the dawn before the rest of the world."  The quality of imagination and alienation to which Wilde speaks is something that Celia embodies in her function throughout the novel.

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