Read our complete study guide on the essay “Dream Children” by Charles Lamb. Our study guide covers Dream Children by Charles Lamb summary and analysis.
Dream Children by Charles Lamb Summary
Lamb opens the essay “Dream Children” by the narrating the story of his grandmother, Mrs. Field to his children, Alice and John. Lamb’s grandmother, his children’s great-grandmother, lived in a ‘great house in Norfolk’. This house was a hundred times bigger than the house they are living presently.
Lamb narrates to his children the story of the tragic scene that had been carved out in the wood upon chimney-piece of the great hall in the great house of his grandmother, however, this wood chimney was then replaced by a marble chimney by the owner. Mrs. Filed, Lamb’s grandmother, was not the real owner of the house, however, due to her kind and humble behavior and her great religious devotion had turned everybody to respect her. The owner of the house hired her as the caretaker and handed over it to her while he himself lived in another house. Mrs. Field lived in the great-house as if it was her own. Later on, the precious ornaments of the great-house were shifted to the real owner’s house, however, they didn’t suit the modern house.
Furthermore, Lamb tells his children about his grandmother’s death and funeral that was attended by a large number of people, both poor and rich. Even people from many miles around had come to express their condolences and respect toward her. Mrs. Field was very humble and pious women who knew Psalms and a great part of Testament by heart.
Lamb then starts telling his children about their grandmother’s youth. She was tall, upright with a graceful personality. She was the best dancer in the country until cancer attacked her and deprived her of her skill, however, this disease couldn’t take her good spirits. Furthermore, Lamb tells Alice and John of how his grandmother used to sleep alone in an isolated chamber of the house. Also, she believed that she saw two infant ghosts in the midnight, however, she was also sure that these were decent mortals that wouldn’t hurt her. Although his maid slept with him, Lamb was quite frightened of the ghosts as he was not as religious as his grandmother.
Furthermore, Lamb told his children about their great-grandmother’s love and affection towards her grandchildren. Lamb, along with his siblings and cousins, visited his grandmother in holidays where they, particularly he, spend most of the hours gazing around the old sculptors of the Emperors of Rome.
He would gaze them as much as the sculptures would appear to him living or else he would turn marble; moreover, he would roam around in the mansion without getting tired. He would use to be alone while roaming around in the empty rooms, worn-out tapering etc. unless a lonely gardener would cross him. He would also roam about the gardens, scrutinizing at the vegetation and flowers. He was more satisfied in spending his holidays like this and preferred it over the usual habits of children and sweet aromas of peaches and nectarines.
Lamb, now, tells his children about their uncle John Lamb. Lamb’s grandmother would love her all grandchildren, however, she had a special affection for John. John was a brave, handsome, and spirited man. He had a unique sort of personality. For instance, others like Charles Lamb would corner themselves, whereas John would use to mount on horses, tour around the village, and would merge with hunters. John, with the passage of time, being brave, earned respect and admiration of almost everyone in the family and out of the family as well.
John was a few years elder than Charles Lamb. John would carry Lamb, who was lame-footed, on his back for many miles when he was unable to walk. However, John, in the afterlife, became lame-footed. Lamb still dreads that he had not been sympathetic enough to endure the intolerant discomforts of John or even to recall his youth when he was supported by John. However, when John passed away, Lamb would miss him so much. He reminisced his gentleness and his pettiness and desired him to be alive again. He wanted him to alive again so that he could fight with him again. Lamb felt as uneasy without him as the poor John felt when the doctor took off his limb.
The children at this point start mourning for their deceased uncle and demand Lamb to proceed by narrating something about their dead mother. Then he started narrating them how for the period long seven years he (Lamb) uncomplainingly dated the beautiful Alice Winterton. When Lamb was narrating his experiences with his wife, he suddenly realizes that the old Alice is communicating with him through the eyes of little Alice sitting in front of him. As Lamb sustain to stare it appears that his children, John and Alice, are disappearing from him.
Finally, the two desolate structures are left out of them saying him that they are neither of Alice nor of you, they are not children at all. The children of Alice calls Bartram father. Hence, they are merely dreams. Suddenly, Lamb wakes up and finds himself in the bachelor arm-chair where he has fallen asleep with the loyal Bridget by his side.
Dream Children by Charles Lamb Literary Analysis
Charles Lamb, the shining star in the sky of essay writing, was born on February 10, 1775. He is the world predominant a renown English poet, essayist and antiquarian. His essays are considered to be the finest among the English prose work. He is appreciated for his genial humor, humanity, wisdom and profound pathos that is reflected in his writings. Essays of Elia was the first volume of his essays that was published in 1828 while the second volume of his essays, named, The Last Essays of Elia was published in 1833. His essays have a unique combination of wit, reflection, anecdote, and fancy. He died on December 27, 1834.
The essay “Dream Children” is a narrative essay in which the author, Charles Lamb narrates the story of his dream that he had. In this dream, he came across his dream children that diminish at the end of the dream.
This essay exhibits the subjects of pain and guilt of getting deprived of the people whom we loved from the core of our heart. In this essay, the author is brought in a dream world to reveal the sweet recollections of the past days. The essay, being enhanced with despair, clarifies the worth and necessity of childhood and the loved ones for an individual, without whom the life appears to be dark and suffocating for the individual.
The reaction and response the children in the essay reflect the effect of the story on their mind and turns the essay dramatic. Moreover, their actions were proof that the story that has been narrated to then have a great influence on them and were moved by their father’s description.
There is a shift in the tone of the essay at various points. The shifts in the tone, from humorous to tragic, occurred when the author describes the scene of his grandmother and beloved brother death. Lamb appears to be nostalgic throughout the essay and longed for his loved ones. He is depressed at the death of his beloved Alice and feels guilty for not marrying her.
Towards the end of the essay, a twist in the essay comes when all the events in the story turn out to be a dream. This adds suspense to the essay along with an open end.