A contagious disease, a quarantined town ‘ – the characters in The Dreamers are facing an extreme situation. Our culture is dominated by two opposing narratives about how people respond to disasters: Some believe they bring out the worst in people, others that they bring out the best. How do these possibilities play out in The Dreamers?
I don’t really feel that there were multiple narratives. It was like the whole story was reported from a reporter who was completely unbiased to the situation. They merely reported what was going on during the entire catastrophe. It highlights the good and bad from the ones affected by the disease and the ones in charge of containing it.
What do you think of Matthew’s character? Are his actions heroic or heartless? Selfless or self-aggrandizing? Or some combination? Is it ethical to privilege the lives of one’s loved ones over the lives of strangers?
I started out thinking that this is just your typical jock. One that’s literally been training all his life. As the story goes in, it becomes apparent that he uses the athletic obsession as a crutch. It helps hide his fear of being hurt and reluctance to get close to people. He uses his intelligence as well.
How does The Dreamers differ from other books about disaster and dystopia? What does it have in common with those stories?
I am not even sure this can be considered a dystopia. Dystopian novels are at tell about a story that happens in worlds unlike our own. This was just involving one city that had an outbreak of a disease nobody know where came from. It is different because they somehow managed to contain it.
Some of the sick dream of extraordinarily vivid alternate lives. Consider Rebecca, who dreams of an entire lifetime, including a son. Do you think her dreamed-of life is somehow real? Or just a delusion? What about Nathaniel’s extended dream of Henry?
I’d like to say that it was a suggestion to the fact that there is a possibility that alternate universes exist. But I’m not very sure on that. They seem to live a full life during the time frame in which they were sleeping. It’s possible that the dreams were their deepest subconscious desires. That would make the most sense. However, the father predicted the library catching fire. It’s open to interpretation.
Why do you think Karen Thompson Walker chose to feature a large cast of characters instead of focusing on just one person’s experience? How did this choice affect your reading of the book? Did one character resonate with you more than the others?
She chose it because that’s what she wanted the focus on. She wanted to make it very clear that the entire town was going through this ordeal. It wasn’t just one person or a family. It wasn’t even small groups. It was the entire city as a whole. I found the idea of it exciting, but the execution fell a bit flat. I resonated most with Mei and the oldest daughter. I forget her name.
One of the main characters is a college freshman named Mei. How would you describe her personality? How does she change over the course of the novel?
Mei was painfully shy. She also preferred a quieter lifestyle. She would rather read a book than go off and party. I wouldn’t say she fully change. She did learn to relax around others a bit. She also drank alcohol as well. Facing her fears didn’t really change her preferences.
The Dreamers includes many parent/child relationships. What do you think of the book’s portrayal of these bonds? How does the crisis affect these relationships?
I would say “many” is a bit of a stretch. I can think of three that are fully talking about at the top of my head. It references Rebecca’s religious family, but there’s no actual interaction there. There was the couple with the baby. They were so detached from each other it was insane. Then we had the father of the two girls who was a bonafide conspiracy theorist. I feel like the crisis seemed to make all families detach from each other.
The Dreamers involves a fictitious disease in a fictitious town, but what parallels do you see in today’s real world? How do you think the government would respond to a situation like this if it happened today?
I feel like they would try to contain the situation just like they did in the story. I don’t mean to insult the government, but I don’t think they would really have the resources to contain it as quickly as it was contained in the book. Not that it wouldn’t of been unimportant. It’s just not realistic.
How do you feel about the ending of the book? How do you imagine the lives of the surviving characters will look five years into the future? How do you think their experiences during the outbreak will affect the rest of their lives?
I absolutely hated the ending of the book. It basically left it at the disease leaving as quickly as it started. There was no explanation of what happened to the characters in the story after everything returned to normal.
Obviously, Rebecca learns to live life as a mother. Maybe she’ll find someone and settle down and have the son she dreams about. The girls grow into teenagers. Hopefully, their father will have relaxed a bit to let them have a bit more freedom at that point. I think Matthew mourns the death of Mei. He winds up graduating college and moves on with his life.
All of them are forever altered though. I’m sure they get nervous from that point on if they feel any form of exhaustion. They probably spiral into fear when they have problems waking people up. Those who were affected by the disease will probably forever be leery of their dreams.
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