What is the importance of dreams in The Road?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What is interesting about this novel is the way that the father is shown to have a number of dreams as he continues of his desperate and slow journey towards the coast with his son. Perhaps that is understandable: the harshness of his life and the bleak chances they have of survival would perhaps indicate that dreams are a welcome escape, particularly for a man such as the father, as he would remember what life was like before the apocalypse. However, note the father's own assessment of dreams in the following quote and what he thinks about them:

He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and of death. He slept little and he slept poorly. He dreamt of walking in a flowering wood where birds flew before them and he and the child and the sky was aching blue but he was learning how to wake himself from just such siren worlds. Lying there in the dark with the uncanny taste of a peach from some phantom orchard fading in his mouth. He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowing fading from memory.

To the father, he feels that because his life and reality is so terrible, he can only have terrible dreams. If he were to have dreams that were pleasant and of his life before the apocalypse, that would be dangerous, because such dreams would represent "the call of laguor and of death." They would soften him and render him incapable of making the tough choices he needs to in order to survive and keep his son alive. This is a very depressing assessment of dreams, as even the one consolation of dreams which he is able to experience when he is asleep is closed to him by his own opinion. However, on the other hand, it is possible to understand his view: he has no time for "phantom orchards" and the taste of peach--a fruit that will never be tasted again on earth--in his world. He can only deal with the day-to-day realities of life and survival. Dreams are therefore important in the way that they reveal a lot about the man and his own understanding of his condition and life.

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