The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

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How does Mark Twain use dreams in "The Mysterious Stranger"?

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Mark Twain's use of dreams in the story "The Mysterious Stranger" is complex and at times delves into somewhat tricky philosophical territory. 

The story, on its very entertaining surface, is about the exploits of the Angel Satan in an unnamed Austrian village during the year 1590.  Explicitly, Satan sows deceit, treachery, and murder in the village--cruelly influencing the suffering of its citizens.  Twain suggests that this is not quite what it seems, however, as the alias Satan uses while interacting with most of the villagers is "Philip Traum." The narrator informs us that "Traum is German for dream."  With metaphorical flair, Twain seems to be implying that Satan is at best a convenient fiction used for justifying the wrongs and suffering we inflict on one another, and that such convenient superstitions are in fact dreams.

In the case of the villagers in Twain's story, this does indeed seem to be the case. Although Satan plants certain seeds and stokes the flames of misery, it is...

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