The Chinese Garden Dream

Position and Context

This is in Part II of Peace, the part titled Olivia. After writing in his diary one night, Weer has a dream he describes the following morning. In the prelude to describing the dream, he mentions writing about Aunt Olivia, but the previous night's diary entry actually ends with him writing about death.

The Story

Weer dreams that he climbs over a wall into a garden landscaped so as to mimic nature, only more beautifully. He walks over some low hills and finds a dry river made of stones. Among them are a few weeds and one dead bird (the only colorful thing in the garden). He reaches a small bridge and finds beneath it an earthenware troll, who has toppled off his pedestal. He then climbs out of the river and takes a sandy path leading from the bridge through cypresses and cedars. At this point, he realizes that he is twenty-five or so. It grows darker and becomes windy. Weer sees something colorful and bright blowing in the wind, and grabs it, but it turns out only to be a broken paper lantern.


The diary entry presumably inspired the dream. The dead bird should thus be taken to be Aunt Olivia. The toppled troll then is Professor Peacock, who killed her and died shortly thereafter. He was also represented by a gnome in the interpolated story The Princess in the Tower. Since Professor Peacock corresponds to the element of earth, and is represented by an earthenware troll, it seems as though we should look for the other elements in this story. The broken paper lantern must then be Julius Smart (fire), and the dry river of stones must be Macafee (water). The only thing in the dream that might represent air (Stewart Blaine) is the cold wind that arises after Weer leaves the river of stones.


Since Julius is represented by a broken paper lantern, this might mean that he was "broken" somehow by Olivia's death. Certainly he wasn't broken intellectually, as he did an extremely competent job of managing the company, but he might have been broken emotionally. If Macafee is the river of stones, then this could mean that after Olivia's death, Weer left Macafee's sphere of influence and entered Blaine's. Weer certainly stopped seeing Macafee regularly after his aunt's death, but he didn't start seeing Blaine; how then did Blaine affect him? It seems very likely that it was Blaine's bank that foreclosed on his father's farms.

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