In The Road, what is the impact on the reader of the dreams?

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

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Dreams are referred to throughout this dystopian novel, and their importance is demonstrated by the way in which the father responds to these dreams and does his best to resist and fight them if they are in any way more pleasant than the present reality that he and his son face. Given the terrible and shocking conditions in which they live their life, it is clear therefore that only nightmares of the worst kind are dreams that are welcomed by the father. Anything else, the father rejects completely. Note for example, what he says to his son after his son has a nightmare:

When your dreams are of some world that never was or of some world that never will be and you are happy again then you will have given up. Do you understand? And you cant give up. I wont let you.

To the father, embracing a better world that is an improvement on their present life is synonymous with giving up. There is something about the grim reality of their dystopian existence that suggests that if you begin to wish your life was better, even if it is only in your subconscious dreams, you will lose the necessary toughness that is vital to survive such a world. This is a luxury that the father cannot allow himself to experience, and he definitely cannot allow his son to start down such a route that will only end in his death. The importance of dreams and how they are something of a motif throughout the text is therefore signalled in what they indicate about both the character of the father and the way he has had to become so hard in order to survive, but also what they reveal about the world of which they are a part. Dreams reveal that the characters are human because they wish for a better world: the world, however, has become so inhumane that being human is a luxury that the father cannot afford.

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