Essays of Elia/Last Essays of Elia

by Charles Lamb

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Examine "Dream Children; A Reverie" as an example of Dream Literature.

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In this essay, "Elia," the narrator, sits in front of the fire and tells detailed stories to his two children, Alice and John. However, as we discover at the end of the essay, Elia has been asleep and was only dreaming of having children. In fact, he is a bachelor. He writes as follows:

"while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding till nothing at last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech   ... 'We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been ...and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor armchair, where I had fallen asleep."

Because Elia tells the story of a dream as if it is real and only at the end lets the reader know he was dreaming, this essay is a typical example of dream literature. Dream literature, like this essay, pulls the reader into a story so rich in detail, so well imagined, that the reader accepts it as true, only to be surprised, if not totally shocked, to discover it is a dream. Another famous example, which also includes a little girl named Alice, is Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. We could also include the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz as a sample of dream literature.

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