Why Not?

Dream Ending? Oh, Please. by Hersh T.
November 18, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Hersh

Why do authors do that?

They have weaved a fantastical world and imaginary rules that govern this place, and then at the point where we are finally beginning to question and perceive, end it? The ending of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland irritates me to no end. Why even begin a book if it is just going to end in, “Oh and she/he woke up, it was all just a dream.” Why?! Are they trying to protect themselves from the criticism that may arrive if they kept the world that they created alive by using the shield of, “its just a dream,”? This type of ending protects and reasserts our rather straightforward and rational minds. The minds of true genius have been rather off, don’t you agree? When a masterful solution, or an ingenious new idea is proposed, it often comes from the social recluse, or the psychotic English teacher. These people do not hide behind the shield of, “Oh it was just practice,” or, “I didn’t mean to.”


When an author does this, it seems to me that they are afraid of what they have created. Often, when we write a story or create a piece of art we start off knowing what we wish to create. However, more often than not, that story, or art piece, gains a life of its own and attains the qualities of our specific personality that is trying to come through at the point where we are in such a frenzy that our conscious mind no longer has control. This thought is often scary. Our conscious mind no longer in control? How is that even possible? In truth, the conscious mind makes up a small fragment of what we, (capital we), really are. For example, have you ever noticed that someone else can point out a specific thing about you or something you do or like that you don’t even realize.

This type of realization brings to the mind the fact that often we don’t even know ourselves. This can easily be rectified however, as discussed in a previous blog post, self-realization. The point is that Carroll was hiding his true genius and ideas behind the pathetic guise of, “Oh it was just a dream.”

13 Comments so far
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Dallas never recovered from the ‘it was all a dream and Bobby Ewing never died’ series – it was a ‘cop out’ by the writers. But in Carroll’s case, it was the only way that a fantastical world could be brought back to reality – especially as the genre of ‘fantasy’ novels was not established as it is nowadays.

Comment by Drew Buddie

I don’t think Carroll is hiding behind a shield. He is writing the most logical ending to his story. The book is designed for two audiences, kids and adults. For kids, this is a wonderful bed time story meant to tease their minds. When the story is over, they want to go to bed and dream of their own Wonderland. If you don’t end it by Alice waking up, then the children never realize how wonderful of a dream it was. We also have to take into account the fact that Carroll also wrote it for adults. He embedded cryptic messages for them that ridiculed politics, education, and society. He also mocks their lack of imagination. Carroll would never be able to make that point, if it wasn’t a dream. With this in mind, I would like to ask you a question. How would you end it?

Comment by Brendon O-L.

I’m glad someone did a post on this. The dream is a pathetic excuse for an ending in any story. But, the reason the dream excuse is used is because it works. Shakespeare himself used this cop-out of an ending in A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when Puck tells the audience it was a dream, clearing up any loose ends left around. If an author’s work gets messy, and they don’t want to go back and change it (perhaps they CAN’T change it, Tenniel probably wouldn’t want to have to redraw pictures), they simply use a dream ending to tie it up. Sure, readers don’t like these ending, but sometimes it is the only way to end a book. Plus, cliches are cliches because they work. Dream endings are used because they work.

Comment by Connor S.

While I do agree that the dream ending is very annoying, I do not think Carroll could have made a different ending. Carroll, after all, was trying to get Alice Liddell’s attention, right? So how well would it go, if this crazy up-side down world turned out to be reality? Alice Liddell would not be very pleased to see that she would be some crazy, hallucinating, talking to herself girl and it would make fun of her sanity. Carroll therefore did the safest thing to make the story be a dream to make sure that Alice Liddell understood the insanity of Wonderland. Carroll did not want to alienate Liddell and so had to make the story a dream.

Comment by Alex E.

It does frustrate me that it ends up being a dream. The thing is that we must wake up from our dreams. Carroll knows that. I think he is trying to teach that to children. He gives them a story where their imaginations can run wild. But it ends. It doesn’t end simply because Carroll wanted to annoy us, but because we must all wake up from our dreams at some point. I like how you talk about how our conscious mind is no longer in control. That is very true.

Maybe it is just me, but because of the ending of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I am starting to want to read the next book. Maybe that has something to do with it?

Comment by Morgan P.

This is such an amazing post! I was also really bummed out that her adventure was all just a dream. It would be much more interesting to see Alice find an unusual way on getting back home. But sadly, no. Carroll had to ruin it for us, by making it all a dream.

You ask: “why do authors do that?”

My theory is that authors aren’t necessarily trying to protect, and reassert, our straightforward and rational minds, but they are afraid. Afraid of either making the story too controversial, so radical that the story isn’t worth reading anymore, or what lies next for the character. What is the next chapter? I also like what you said about losing control over our conscious minds. Carroll probably meant for it to be a children’s book, for Alice, at first. But over time, he must have gotten too into it, and lost sight in what his real intentions were, and thats when his writing abilities took the best of him. Maybe that’s why he ended it so abruptly. Carroll saw that the book taking a life of its own, so he ended her adventure with a dream.

Comment by Carl K.

Wow, I feel your pain. It always seems like a rather cheap ending when an author uses the dream excuse to tie up all the loose ends. Perhaps it is not that they are trying to disassociate themselves with their work but simply cannot find a way to rationalize all the loose ends they have created for themselves. I know from personal experience ending a story is one of the hardest things about writing. When creating a satisfying ending is so hard sometimes it’s just simpler and less complicated to end a dream.

Comment by Gabriella B.

I completely agree!

Even though this is a children’s book, the ending could have been more creative or at least not ended so abruptly. Who knows this might not even be a dream Alice is having! Maybe whenever she arrives into Wonderland Alice is entering the “real” world and what she believes to be the “real” world could be her dream. It is one of the many unsolved mysteries.

Also, why did Carroll end the story at the court scene? Perhaps Carroll saw that whatever he was trying to accomplish with the story was done so he needed to wrap everything up. The book was also getting lengthy so maybe he just thought it was a good stopping point.

We will never know. If only Carroll was still alive…

I think you would find “First Thought? Of Course I Ought!” very interesting because I discuss the same frustration you have on the ending. You can check it out here http://aliceproject12.wordpress.com/2009/11/14/first-thought-of-course-i-ought-ch-12/ if you want to.

Comment by Emma L.

Hersh, you are absolutely right. Carroll had built up the story to a great ending that was not to be. Carroll and many other authors write great stories and don’t know how to end them. They just settle for the “it was only a dream” ending. This type of ending is almost painful for the reader. The story starts out so promising then ends so abruptly that it angers us to an extent. I understand that authors can be a little hesitant to go all out on fantasy story and it is easier to say it was only a dream, but they need to get a little more creative. So many stories end with the plot only being an illusion that it has gotten very repetitive and boring.

Comment by Deron M

Yes, I was disappointed as well. Frankly, I don’t even like to consider the ending when analyzing this book. Although, I always need to keep my mind open to this sort of subject. Carroll, throughout the story, (at least as I see it) has been clever and deliberate with the writing and story. Maybe there was some other reason he ended as he did. Unfortunately, we will never know, just as we will never know if this book should even be analyzed past the first word.

Comment by Connor M.

I agree, it does seem like a cop out. It was such a convoluted story, and it just ended like a simple fairy tale. It was like saying “Don’t fear kids, none of it was real, don’t take any of it seriously.”

But, part of me sees the appropriateness of this ending because it does speak a great deal about the reality of, well, reality. In terms of a literary piece, frankly the ending stinks, but I think there’s a solid point. For Carroll, his life was a disappointment. He was in love with a child, he may have been a bit of a child himself, and he was living in some fantasy land. I’m sure propriety called frequently for him to “wake up” from his dreams. I think this is the bitter feeling he felt compelled to share as the ending to his story.

Comment by Rachel M.

I couldn’t agree more, Hersh. There is nothing more frustrating than “it was all just a dream.”

You become so wrapped up in the fantasy and then BAM! They just take it all away from you.

I wish they would take it a step further, even if that means making the book longer, and go deeper into the fantasy. I like how you bring up that they may fear what they have created. I think Frankenstein is a good example of fearing your own creation along with many countless sci-fi movies. It is very easy to become so creative and became so engulfed into the made up world it may seem as though it were a reality to you. I think they fear that other people may not become so absorbed by their stories and fear rejection so make a clean escape.

Comment by Brittany M

Yeah I like how you brought that up. Authors usually disguise what they have written by making it a dream. It is like they almost feel embarrassed by the end of the book because that is not what they meant to write. Their subconscious took over and wrote the book for them. When they finally realize what they have written, they don’t want to take the blame for it. But sometimes when someone writes something great, it is not the normal thing at that time but it is something bizarre. Also I think that Carroll might have cut the book short because he was starting to get too carried away and his true feeling were starting to come out so he had to stop himself and end the book. To make sure he was not going to be looked at as weird or something he just ended the book with she woke up and it was a dream.

Comment by Colton C.

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