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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 651

George Dane, a writer whose success has brought with it a tremendous amount of responsibility in the form of increasingly more reading and writing to be done, wakes up one morning feeling overwhelmed by all the paperwork on his desk. The rain during the night has not washed away the...

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George Dane, a writer whose success has brought with it a tremendous amount of responsibility in the form of increasingly more reading and writing to be done, wakes up one morning feeling overwhelmed by all the paperwork on his desk. The rain during the night has not washed away the work waiting to be done, the sentence waiting to be completed. Brown, his servant, enters the study to remind him of an engagement and inquire about his luncheon plans. Dane would rather not be bothered. Brown’s distractedness leads them to talk at cross-purposes until Dane intones, “There is a happy land—far far away!” Brown is concerned that Dane is not well. On Dane’s reassurance, Brown introduces a young man, whose name Dane does not catch, into the room. The story’s first scene ends as they shake hands.

The remaining four scenes take place within Dane’s dream until he wakes up for the story’s last few paragraphs. The second scene begins with Dane feeling as if he is experiencing the rebirth of consciousness in a place of infinite charm, peace, and freshness: the “great good place” of the title. Author Henry James dramatizes the growth of Dane’s consciousness through the successive scenes until Dane awakens to the everyday world. Within the dream, Dane is first vaguely aware of a place defined as “such an abyss of negatives, such an absence of everything.” Out of a general feeling of peace and contentment, he develops self-consciousness as he becomes aware of a shadowy, human-like figure who seems to be sharing a bath with him. This figure is a “Brother,” one who shares Dane’s sense of ease, serenity, and security in this place that appears to be a combination of monastery and health spa: a retreat from the world that will invigorate the self. The pleasant sound of bells introduces times and the orders of spatial form and perspective. Dane and the Brother discuss the finding of the place and what it means to them. Dane names it “The Great Good Place.” For the Brother, it is “The Great Want Met.” They agree that to get to there, the burden of the world had to be dropped. Dane tells how the young man who showed up in his study that morning became his “substitute in the world” by assuming all of his obligations. As the young man took over the identity of Dane, Dane gained the freedom of becoming nobody.

After what seems like three weeks to Dane, he believes that he has regained his vision, his genius, his way of ordering and understanding the world. Instead of appearing amorphous, everything now seems crystal clear, the creation of a wise consciousness exactly like his own. He is able to analyze the situation. The place has a library containing all the books he has always wanted to read but did not have the time to read. His comparisons become more aesthetic, including references to painting and music. He feels the pleasure of detachment in combination with the impression that everything was a result of his desires and vision. In the company of another, apparently younger, Brother, he comes to believe that he has found what he wanted.

As the final scene commences, it seems to be raining, indicating an element of change that has heretofore been absent in the place. Dane and the Brother compare the place to a convalescent home and a kindergarten, institutions that imply process or development. With this comes a concern that the place will not always be available. They decide that it will. They realize that they must return to life itself. As Dane shakes the hand of the Brother in farewell, he wakes up to find his hand being held by the manservant Brown. He has been sleeping all day while the young visitor has taken care of all of his correspondence.

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