What makes Silent Dancing dreamlike?

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

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Some of the thematic and structural elements to Silent Dancing contribute to a "dreamlike" element. 

One way that the work can be seen as "dreamlike" is in the way it is told. Dreams have meaning because of what they reveal. There is a lack of exactitude in a dream. We rarely establish a clear beginning, middle or end to a dream. Rather, it is the meaning of a dream that lingers in our minds.  This is mirrored in Silent Dancing. There is not a direct structure to the book.  Ortiz Cofer does not offer a clear start, middle, or end.  She does not give a central focus to the narrative.  Rather, it is told through stories that contain life lessons.  As with a dream, the structure is not as important.  Rather, it is what meaning can be taken from it. This form of story telling is dreamlike because the emphasis is on what can be gained as opposed to how it is told.

Fluidity of change is another element of dreams.  Identity, the way we see ourselves and others, and how we perceive the world are all very dynamic in dreams.  Ortiz Cofer uses this quality of change to analyze ethnicity.  She shows how assimilation and racial consciousness create challenging conditions within herself as an adolescent.  She is positioned between the integrationist hopes of her father, beliefs that saw the condition of being Puerto Rican as something to be overcome.  At the same time, she embraced her mother's value system which stated that to lose one's culture is a way of losing one's self.  As with a dream, there is not a clear resolution to this dilemma.  It exists, going back and forth, playing a central element in defining adolescent identity.  

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