LET ME DREAM A WHILE: THE LITERARY RELATION BETWEEN REALITY & MAGIC THROUGH A SUBCONSCIOUS LENS

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

– Edgar Allan Poe

By Dur-E-Najaf

When the universe was created, mankind began contemplating things that intrigued him. Sometimes, he got answers about the mysterious ways through which nature functioned, but at times, when he was unable to answer the mysteries questions hidden deep under the vast universe, he attributed them as some extraordinary mechanism that worked outside of human understanding which alternatively came to the knowledge of the people as “Magic”. This magic thus became a permanent part of human lives and shaped the way civilisation progressed. The strangeness associated with this phenomenon made people question its validity. Some believed in the mystical power while others negated its existence; yet there was always something odd, albeit alluring that people kept on adding in to their conversations which later evolved into pieces of literature that specifically dealt with this belief.

Magic seems like a phenomenon that can never be understood, yet people want to dwell on its comprehension. The easiest way to connect to an extraordinary world with charms of its own, rather than our reality where harshness and contempt rules, is a dream. A dream is something that connects a spirit to life. It is something that reads our hopes, our desires and thoughts. Taking into consideration the emotions which are hidden in the deepest corners of ourselves, a dream projects them into something grand and satisfying, which at times act as our guide and transforms our personality in the real world too.

Though a dream, on the outside, appears as a little part of our subconscious, it is something that has a grand narrative if we open the window and peek into the world inside. The musings told by our mind are modelled into dreams. Weaved into such threads of dream and reality, we come across “Magical Realism” where we find “the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the magical becomes commonplace” as Thought Co describes.

As magic remains a constant idea within our subconscious, it nourishes itself into various branches and folds itself into various approaches. The dreams which are regarded as the closest revelation of our “subconscious” is one such approach when we start interpreting the magical elements within the real world.

It is believed by many that though ordinary, the dreams we have concealed have an extraordinary connotation within them, and this is when the magic comes becomes apparent. The subconscious plays with the human mind in mysterious ways. This complexity and mystery arises within a writer’s mind, something extraordinary takes birth on the pieces of paper and lives an eternal life in the hearts of the readers. Adding the element of spiritualism in combination with mystery is not new for writers, for they have viewed a genius as great as “S.T Coleridge” (1772-1834), taking inspiration from his hindsight and working according to the wishes of the very force which directed him to enter into this maze of mysticism with the aura of magic.

The opium addiction for which he is being accused by many critics somehow contributes to the images he provided in his poems “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. These two poems specifically reflect the strange mystical elements blending within an existent environment which feed on the memories of the narrator. The spiritual connection which binds the narrator with the magnificent characters makes the reader wonder about the mental condition of the genius who created them. Coleridge himself declares “imagination as a spiritual connection with the non-existent yet powerful event” in his historical work, “Biographia Literaria”.

This power of creating a grand narrative compels the dreams to take a new root; they develop into the form of premonitions when we find literature approving the validity of magical realism. These premonitions which are also known by the name of “Precognition” in psychology are associated with magic because of their mystical power. The idea of finding an event of the future right before turning the page of the future is highly accepted by Latin American writers. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) by the pen of Gabriel Garcia Marquez appears pompous in its display of this quality where we find the vivid premonitions of Colonel Aureliano Buendia as the decisive factor for the entire Buendia family. This is when the connection of the existent and the non-existent seems to disintegrate at every single page because the repetitive dreaming becomes so intense that the family become influenced by it, directly or indirectly.

A similar attitude is adopted by Isabel Allende in her debut novel, “The House of the Spirits” (1982), where she narrates the story of the Trueba family in a pattern familiar to Buendias. Here, again, we find the rule of the subconscious prominent over minds as Clara Esteban Trueba, the protagonist of the novel, looks into the minds of others and has mystical powers which help her find the future. Though, despite being powerful enough to shape the personality of the protagonist, this mystical power starts feeding on the sanity of everyone else.

For Clara, the boundaries between life and death are the same. Her mystical powers paint a picture of unity between the two most important events of life, one connects the soul with the body and we call it “Birth”, while the other removes the soul from the body, regarded as “Death”. The only difference between these two spiritual phenomena is “fear” according to her. As she says, “Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality.

The change at the onset of death is existent within science which asserts that “Far from being ‘dead’, a rotting corpse is teeming with life.” BBC future states that “A growing number of scientists view a rotting corpse as the cornerstone of a vast and complex ecosystem, which emerges soon after death and flourishes and evolves as decomposition proceeds.” If one ponders on this decomposition, this alternation from being alive in an existent world to a world that is spiritual, the whole journey is distinguished solely by “fear”. The fear of changing into nothing after being an individual is what shapes our unconscious and models our sixth sense accordingly.

The subconscious blends into consciousness, and this is what creates a dream which appears real, a picture that is so bright in its impact. That is why we find Clara wandering amidst the real and the magic, tackling the significance of the premonitions she experiences, interpreting them her way and interacting with the spirits of those whom she loved dearly in her subconscious and finding the surreal experience as her reality because the insanity blends with the sanity to construct a magical reality. 


Costandi, Moheb. “What Happens to Our Bodies after We Die.” Www.bbc.com, 8 May 2015, www.bbc.com/future/article/20150508-what-happens-after-we-die.

Craven, Jackie. “Introduction to Magical Realism.” Thought Co., 10 Aug. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/magical-realism-definition-and-examples. Accessed 7 May 2021.

Passenger. “Let Me Dream a While.” Open.spotify.com, 22 Jan. 2017, open.spotify.com/track/47mouGTKibhdzYVM2IykqK. Accessed 7 May 2021.

Published by Dur-e-Najaf

"Porsuis tes reves"

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