Just a Dream

Joshe Cofresi '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2003

From the start of Lord Foul's Bane, author Stephen R. Donaldson emphasizes the debilitating effect that leprosy plays in Thomas Covenant's life. Covenant's doctor warns him that the mental effects of the disease could ultimately lead to his demise. Therefore, in order to keep himself sane Covenant constantly tries to convince himself that his experience in the fantastic world is a dream.

Perhaps he was crazy. Perhaps he was at this moment wandering in dementia, tormenting himself with false griefs and demands, the impositions of an illusion. Such things had happened to lepers.

I'm not! he shouted, almost cried out aloud. I know the difference--I know I'm dreaming.

His fingers twitched with violence, but he drew cool air deep into his lungs, put everything behind him. He knew how to survive a dream. Madness was the only danger. [76-77]

In later chapters, Covenant still tries to make sense of the fantastic world in order to survive, but eventually he also permits a human side of him to appear. He makes an effort to seem cheery and his conscience bothers him more and more over raping Lena.

Questions

1. How does the question of dream versus reality help to push the story along?

2. Despite Covenant's frequent assertions that he is not insane, does anything seem to suggest otherwise?

3. What details imply that the fantastic world is not a dream?

4. How does Covenant's personal growth in the fantastic world make it more believable?

References

Donaldson, Stephen R. Lord Foul's Bane. Part I of The Chronicles of Thomas Coveant the Unbeliever. New York: Ballantine Books, 1977.


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Last modified 20 April 2004