I Sell My Dreams
This story is written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The story begins with an accident in which huge sea waves wash away cars from road to a corner of a hotel. A lady gets killed in the accident. From the serpent-like ring on lady’s finger, the author could recognize the lady as his acquaintance.
The lady, named Frau Frieda is an Austrian woman with interesting personality traits. Her speciality is interpretation of dreams. She often gets job at homes which are inhabited by superstitious people. The power of her interpretation of dreams is so much that she starts commanding almost every aspect of life of the family she works for.
Although a non-believer, even the author gives in to her interpretation of one particular dream and as a result leaves Vienna for good.
Stop and Think
Question 1: How did the author recognize the lady who was extricated from the car encrusted in the wall of Havana Riviera Hotel after the storm?
Answer: The lady was wearing a ring in the shape of a serpent with eye of emerald. The author could recognize the lady from that ring.
Question 2: Why did the author leave Vienna never to return again?
Answer: One day, Frau Frieda told the author that she dreamt about the author. Based on her interpretation of the dream, Frau Fried suggested the author to leave Vienna and not to come back for the next five years. Due to this, the author left Vienna never to return again.
Question 3: How did Pablo Neruda know that somebody behind him was looking at him?
Answer: It is not clear but some assumptions can be safely made. Pablo Neruda may have seen in shining cutlery the reflection of the person behind him, and was able to conclude that someone was staring at him.
Question 4: How did Pablo Neruda counter Frau Frieda’s claims to clairvoyance?
Answer: Clairvoyance means the power to see in the future or see things which are imperceptible to our senses. Frau Frieda apparently has powers of clairvoyance. But Pablo Neruda thinks otherwise. For him, only poetry has clairvoyance, i.e. the faculty to see the future or see things which are imperceptible to our senses.
Understanding the Text
Question 1: Did the author believe in the prophetic ability of Frau Frieda?
Answer: Throughout the story, the author creates an image that he is immune to superstitions. But when it came to his safety, he immediately left Vienna forever and that too on the advice of Frau Frieda. So, it can be said that the author believes in the prophetic ability of Frau Frieda. Another incidence, i.e. of Frieda’s brother choking to death after swallowing a candy reaffirms that the author believed in the prophetic ability of Frau Frieda.
Question 2: Why did he think that Frau Frieda’s dreams were a stratagem for surviving?
Answer: Frau Frieda’s profession was to interpret dreams, and it was her full time profession. So, the author thinks that Frau Frieda’s dreams were a stratagem for surviving. The dictionary meaning of stratagem says it is a plan or scheme, especially used to outwit the opponent or to achieve something.
Question 3: Why does the author compare Neruda to a Renaissance pope?
Answer: The popes during the Renaissance period showed certain contradictory traits. They rose through hierarchy due to family ties and a system of reciprocal give and take. Yet they advocated secularism and actively promoted art, culture and literature during the period. It can be said that they were a mix of both orthodoxy and modernity.
Neruda was gluttonous as well as refined at the same time. He could finish three lobsters at one go, which is a sign of gluttony. But what was amazing was that he could dissect those lobsters with a surgeon’s skills.
Neruda could feast on other’s plates with his eyes, yet he was refined enough to discuss the fine nuances of gourmets.
Talking About the Text
Question 1: In spite of all the rationality that human beings are capable of, most of us are suggestible and yield to archaic superstitions. Discuss
Answer: It is true that in spite of all the rationality that human beings are capable of, most of us are suggestible and yield to archaic superstitions. We can take many examples to illustrate this point.
You may have observed many people of your age with a black thread tied near one of the ankles. It is believed that if someone is prone to getting injured too often in the leg, tying a black thread prevents getting accidentally hit. When every other recourse fails, people resort to some sort of talisman which usually has no rational basis.
You will also find many successful men and women with rings studded with different kinds of gemstones in different fingers. Such gemstones are often worn on the advice of some famous or not so famous astrologers, in the belief that a particular gemstone will bring fortune and good luck.
Question 2: Dreams and clairvoyance are as much an element of the poetic vision as religious superstition. Discuss.
Answer: As discussed in the answer to a previous question, clairvoyance is all about seeing things which are beyond the realms of our perceptible senses. Poets often use this tool to weave a fantasy around an idea in order to entice their readers.
Propagation of religion is partly helped by this wonderful tool. Mythology and various stories of miracles are nothing but master display of clairvoyance.
Yuval Noah Harari, in his famous book Homo Sapiens, says that if you will ask a monkey to donate the banana in order to get loads of bananas in heaven the monkey would refuse to heed to your advice. But if you will tell a man to donate a gold coin in order to buy peace in heaven the man is more likely to listen to your advice. This is the power of religious superstition.
Question 1: The story hinges on a gold ring shaped like a serpent with emerald eyes. Comment on the responses that this image evokes in the reader.
Answer: A ring shaped like serpent with emerald eyes immediately evokes and image of sorcery or magic. While reading this description, the reader may imagine the lady to be a tarot card reader or astrologer or a wizard.
Question 2: The craft of a master story-teller lies in the ability to interweave imagination and reality. Do you think that this story illustrates this?
Answer: The author has perfectly woven imagination and reality in this story. Tales of accident and sea voyage are the realities. Tales of various prophecies which the lady tells during the course of interpretation of various dreams are imaginations.
Question 3: Bring out the contradiction in the last exchange between the author and the Portuguese ambassador.
‘In concrete terms,’ I asked at last, ‘what did she do?’ ‘Nothing.’ He said, with a certain disenchantment. ‘She dreamed.
Answer: The words ‘concrete’ and ‘dreamed’ are contradictory. Dreams cannot be concrete, i.e. tangible.
Question 4: Comment on the ironical element in the story.
Answer: I think the irony of the story is the failure of Frau Frieda in interpreting the way her life was going to end. During her childhood one of the dreams interpreted by her was about her brother washed off by floods. But, as her interpretations came true, her brother died due to choking on candy. But at the end it was she who was washed off by a huge wave.