Charles Lamb’s “Dream Children”

The work “Dream Children” by Charles Lamb reflects many aspects of Lamb’s psyche. This work reveals Lamb’s desire to have children. He dreams of telling the children of Grandmother Field; this shows a certain intimacy he wanted to have with children. However, his idea of having children becomes twisted with the line “We are nothing; less than nothing and dreams.” This line shows how confused he is about having children and how they seem transparent. The thought that “children are a good topic to think about, but not have in reality,” consumes him.

Lamb’s past may explain this thought of his. His mental instability and seeing Mary stab his mother may have created this traumatic effect. In the end, the dream changes as if it becomes a nightmare and Lamb or Elia jolts himself awake. There may be some argument that this may have been a dream dreamt while he was taking opium or while hallucinating on opium. “Dream Children,” may have been inspired by Charles Lamb’s negative experience of opium intake. At first, everything seems to be OK, however the gradual decay of sanity occurs and everything becomes unclear and incoherent.

Also, this work closely resembles Alice in Wonderland. The main character is Alice and the events take place in a science fiction parallel universe.  The Queen of Hearts likes to behead the characters, which makes me think of Charles’s sister Mary stabbing their mother. Alice also falls in to a hole because she is not content with her life and so she ventures off to another place, much like Lamb does in his essay. Because he does not have children of his own, he dreams of children and their characteristics.

Esther Kwon

13 responses

  1. Lindsey Irvine

    I think it is important that Esther included Charles Lamb’s past. By understanding the horrible things that have happened to him during his life, it makes the poem easier to understand. This is because by understanding Charles was troubled mentally, it makes it clear as to why he wrote such disturbing things. Esther is probably correct in saying that Charles was on opium when he wrote this. Her comparison to Alice in Wonderland was very creative, she is definitely thinking out of the box when she says this. Esther’s concluding sentence also poses the question, if Charles had children would he still have these thoughts?

    October 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm

  2. Meghan Kelly

    I agree with the analysis that Esther proposed in her response to “Dream Children.” I think that Charles Lamb’s desire of having children is apparent in this work and that he expresses his longing for that bond with them. I also think that Esther did a good job in describing the background and knowledge about Lamb’s life because this is vital to understanding the meaning of this poem. The fact that he may have been taking opium or overindulging in alcohol while writing this would explain a lot about this poem. I thought it was somewhat confusing and hard to follow at some points, which could be because of his hallucinations. I thought that Esther brought up a good point by writing about this and her comparison of this work to Alice and Wonderland was very interesting thought provoking.

    October 8, 2010 at 2:13 am

  3. The suggestion that Lamb wrote the essay as a way of dealing with his dysfunction family and his own lack of children is, I think, a good one. I also like the comparison to Alice in Wonderland. We’ll be able to talk more about that when we read Lewis Carroll later in the semester.

    I may have given the impression that ALL the Romantics were taking opium. This, however, is not likely the case with Lamb. Lamb was old school: he got his kicks from alcohol. It is, however, quite possible, that “Dream Children” reflects alcohol-induced hallucinations.

    Joseph Byrne

    October 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  4. Ethan

    I definitely agree with the argument that this piece was written by Lamb while he was on Opium. The story opens with almost a mystical tone, which conveys a very natural dream feel; however soon we begin to see things going wrong and by the end we are left in a confusing state of nothingness. It took me two or three times of rereading this to grasp his whole concept, but after finally understanding Lambs “inspiration,” it made much more sense.

    October 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  5. Ethan

    and now I read through the comments AFTER posting and see that this was not true….back to rereading….

    October 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

  6. Marc Levender

    After reading your analysis, I can appreciate Charles Lambs’ “Dream Children” even more. The ideas you established about the piece are similar to how I viewed it, but the background on Charles Lamb really helped create an image of Lamb that I had not thought of before. Your discussing of Lamb’s opium use, and mental instability really made me look deeper into the piece, as not just the deep desires of a simple man, but those of a very troubled, and possibly drug-riddled mind of a complex man. It changes the way I look at the essay to think that Lamb was on opium while writing, and opens the doors to many other ideas regarding the piece.

    October 12, 2010 at 1:53 am

  7. Sharon Rosenblatt

    I think Esther did a good job in her analysis of Charles Lamb’s “Dream Children”. She gave a historical account of his past and motives for writing this poem. I also appreciated the fact that she tied in the resemblance it has towards “Alice in Wonderland”. That was something that I did not see while reading the poem, but now can understand.

    October 12, 2010 at 6:02 am

  8. Diana Cronenberg

    After reading this response on Charles Lamb’s “Dream Child”, my perspective on the piece completely changes. The piece was initially very confusing to me, but your analysis opened new doors and revealed different connections that I did not think of while reading. I also liked how you tied his personal life into the response and explained how it might have affected his writing.

    October 12, 2010 at 7:17 am

  9. Alexa Cohen

    Esther’s analysis on how Charles Lamb’s traumatic experiences as a child may have had an effect on his work helped to clear up Lamb’s opinion about having children throughout “Dream Children.” I also thought it was clever how Esther was able to relate “Alice in Wonderland” to this work. While reading “Dream Children,” I did not make this connection, but now I see how it can apply.

    December 14, 2010 at 3:25 am

  10. Raaghavi

    This is a wonderful explanation for such a simple essay..

    November 1, 2011 at 5:35 am

  11. Gangane atmaram

    Dream Children captures the sense of attachment with grandmother.Grand mother’s affection for grand children,her dedication and love symbolize her as a caretaker.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm

  12. Gangane atmaram

    Dream children is full of love ,care and affection.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm

  13. Gangane atmaram

    Dream children is full of love ,care and affection.

    November 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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