Dreams are a common outlet for the fictitious and real characters alike. Having a dream motivates characters towards a goal. A bad dream can drive the character towards the same thing. In Wake by Lisa McMann, other people’s dreams propel s seventeen-year-old Janie towards finding peace in a sea of nightmares.
Nightmares and dreams alike are a metaphor for real life. In life, there is always the good and the bad, the black and the white. This leaves the characters with a series of choices. What they choose will directly affect the outcome.
But what happens when the character doesn’t get to choose anything other than to help or not to help. Janie is exposed to the inner most, secret workings of the people around her without a choice. She must subject herself to their darkest desires, their haunting nightmares or the times of true happiness. She can’t stop it and she can’t turn away.
What she does with the information is what shapes her story because she doesn’t have dreams of her own. Sure, she has short-term goals like college, getting out of her town but there’s no real dreaming, no plan for what comes next. Even more importantly, she doesn’t dream when she sleeps. Instead, she is bombarded by other people’s.
Without personal dreams and goals, how does Janie move the story forward? In this story, the main character doesn’t move the main plot on her own. The dreams are what bring her through it. The passive approach allows more time for her to tackle her personal battles, as in controlling her dream jumping.
The problem with this is the lack of a driving force. The character does not start off with a question that the audience must get the answer by the end. Rather, the author raises the question about the main character. Without wants or needs, the audience sits idly by to see what she does, how she handles things and what she chooses to do.
McMann took a common thread in many pieces of literature and turned the table. In reality, the main character of this story should be the dreams because without them, there would be no inciting incident, no motivation and no story. It is a story that reminds the readers that there is a reason behind every dream, whether they are good or bad and therefore, they should all try to figure out what the subconscious is saying. Like in Wake, dreams are a way to help realize goals, no matter how big or small they may be.