The dream motif in the novels of James Leo Herlihy

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1975

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This work is the first critical study of all of James Leo Herlihy's novels. An analysis of All Fall Down (1960), Midnight Cowboy (1965), and The Season of the Witch (1971) reveals Herlihy's particular talent in the use of dreams, not only for characterization but also to unify the fiction both structurally and thematically. He structures these novels about daydream-dominated neurotics around three stages: (1) the protagonist daydreams of unrealistic solutions to family problems, while sleeping dreams show the depth of these problems; (2) he clings stubbornly to his daydreams in spite of disillusioning experiences, but subconsciously grows in awareness of reality; (3) he experiences love, discards his daydreams, and exhibits maturity in his sleeping dreams. "Problem" dreams become "solution" dreams, including a "climactic solution dream" where the protagonist subconsciously confronts the evil in human nature. Most significant is Herlihy's use of interlocking dream symbolism to express his maturation theme, especially in the central recurring dream of each novel: Clinton Williams's "tree-shaking" dream, Joe Buck's "golden rope" and "family" dreams, and Gloria Random's "forest" dream.

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