Analysis Of Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream Within A Dream

“You may say I’m a dreamer. However, I’m also not the only one. I hope someday I’ll be joined by you, and the entire world will live in one.” John Lennon says that “Imagine” transcends the limits of his time and embraces the sentiments a vast audience. Lennon asks his listeners not to imagine a society where people can see the beauty and splendors of heaven but instead to work towards creating this environment. There are no manmade barriers, and the world is a “brotherhood for men” where people respect each other’s rights, liberty, and pursuits to happiness. Humanity has long been subject to the struggle of reality. Lennon’s utopian vision was a dream come true. Ideally, this civilization would be freed from all forms of human suffering, including pain, need, and despair. The daydream fades, the flower dies, and love is lost forever. Artists and poets don’t have to be the only ones who are frustrated by reality’s cruelties. Edgar Allen Poe’s poems show him struggling to find the right balance between reality’s harsh reality and dreams. His collection of poems on this topic and the distinction between them is unifying through their themes and titles. His poem “Dreams,” which he wrote, focuses on how dreams have made him feel happy and innocent. Referring to the idea of lost innocence in childhood, “A Dream” states that daydreams reflect youthful aspirations not yet achieved. “A Dream Within a Dream” reveals a jaded and pessimistic perspective that ultimately leads to a regressive and pessimistic conclusion. All dreams are false and futile. Poe’s speech reveals his feelings of insignificance as he speaks through the various works. He imagines a fantasy world that is unattainable, far more than the reality he can see.

Each aspect of childhood is filled with innocence and purity. Children can be happy simply living and daydreaming. Through “Dreams”, the speaker invokes his past memories, wishing them to live beyond their reveries and become a reality. Because dreams are temporary and constantly changing, the speaker feels like he is living in a world of hopeless despair. A dream can be conformed to any expectation without regard to physical barriers. Reality is both real and inevitable. Every thought and action of man is governed by external expectations. Man is in control of his reactions and not subject to the outside world’s demands. Dreams are not conformist because they are made by individuals and not society. The future of the speaker as a boy was promising and welcoming. He “revealed…in the summer skies, in dreams of live light/And loves,” wherein nature’s beauty embodied his hopes. (ln 13-15). The boy must become a man as soon as possible, abandoning all imagination and fascination. Reality was at the most vulnerable time of innocence, and left “behind its images on [his] spirits,” making him a jaded, sarcastic man (ln 22/23). While he enjoyed childhood pleasures, this world can only be relived through dreams. Capitalization of Paradise and Hope, Love is a great example of the respect and value that is placed on these entities. These aspects are what give life purpose. According to the speaker, reality is all there is in the world. However, dreams have the unique ability of sustaining hope. Traditionally, adolescence is a time when one evaluates morals and goals. It is the time when you move from accepting everything with your whole heart to critically analyzing it. The speaker of “A Dream” believes that dreams can offer a glimpse into inner peace that cannot be achieved. Man is bound to wake up every morning from his “joy departed”, only to find himself enslaved by a daily routine (ln 2). He will eventually look back on his past to recall the times when life was so wonderful (ln 8). He is constantly reminded of his childhood hopes and goals. The past that was once considered pure is now clouded by pessimism. Realizing that the past is not possible, even though it may seem beautiful and idyllic, people begin to see the limitations of their fantasies. The speaker falls asleep each night and wakes up “broken-hearted” from his dreams. The dream is not finished and has yet to be fulfilled. These dreams are not realized by the speaker. His hope seems to have been futile, and he is not content. He is often alone, but his hope is a “lonely soul” that helps him get through any difficulties. He is determined to find meaning in his life and clings to the concepts that give it to him. Although reality is often interrupted, dreaming provides hope for the future, even if it is not.

Adolescence and childhood are just paths to wisdom and adulthood. Adulthood embodies many aspects of maturity-obligations, incredulity, and cynicism. These formidable foes are difficult to overcome with imagination and hope. “A Dream Within a Dream” says that regardless of where you are at the time, the loss of hope cannot be reversed. Because he lost all reason to move forward, man becomes a shadow or a ghost of his former existence. His attempts to make society better seem futile in a world where he has no place or purpose. The speaker is “amid waves roaring on a shore-tormented coast,” and conveys a sense that he feels helpless and ineffective. (ln 13) He is terrified of this concept in adult stage because he sees how small he is within an infinitely vast universe. He fondly remembers his childhood dreams and his childhood as a boy. He realizes that the opportunities and time are rapidly passing. The speaker says that life is a “dream within the dream”, a fleeting image that can only be cherished for a moment (ln 24). Dreams are not eternal. The fact that life can be compressed into another dream is only an added bonus to its shortening. The poem’s final line questions existence. It encompasses reality, dreams, God, and everything in between. The speaker is unsure of his purpose in the world and contemplates how he fits into it. He requires tangible evidence that faith-based concepts are real. The purpose of today is debated by him because he doesn’t know what the future might hold. Is the future nonexistent? Where is the past or the present? With each passing hour, the chance to realize your dreams is less and less.

People gravitate towards John Lennon’s utopia of peace, love, harmony because they are human beings with human natures. But, this same sense of nature as well as will makes it difficult to imagine such an idealistic existence. This pessimism results from the emotional abuses that men have suffered as they mature. Poe believes that human beings are imperfect and designed to dream, wonder, question. An imaginary world cannot be separated from reality. Some dreaming and fantasizing are necessary when planning for a realistic future. Man finds paradise on Earth when he combines his hopes with his duty. Reality can be as harsh as dreams. While dreams survive, life remains bearable. The speaker in “Dreams” recognizes that there is a lot to be optimistic about in a world where despair is rampant. This makes it clear that dream life is better than real life. A Dream further encourages optimism. It depicts the corruption that dreams can cause in a world full of despair. These dreams must be kept pure in order to maintain stability. Through “A Dream Within a Dream”, hope plunges into the abyssal of reality. The speaker applies the lessons from “A Dream” to his situation and declares that life without dreams is futile. Poe is a darkly-skinned writer who struggles against his fear that he will be impoverished. He is vulnerable and shares his inner fears about growing older and losing sight on the dreams he once treasured. Poe uses a somber tone to address the cruel reality of life. These poems are Poe’s testament to the fact that time is not going to wait for anyone. Poe believes that there is no need to wait for tomorrow in order to realize his dreams. He instead insists on the certainty of today and hopes for a society in that people will act according to their natural inclinations. Poe is akin to Lennon in that he “imagine[s]” all people living today.



Daisy May is a 34-year-old blogger and student who is passionate about education. She has been blogging about her educational experiences and tips for other students since 2010. Daisy May is currently studying for her Master's degree in Adult Education.