The Silk Pavilion opens with a disturbing dream. It is the first of many throughout the novel. In this clip, Sarah Walton talks about the inclusion of dreams, and how to avoid the pitfalls of this controversial literary device.
Sarah is personally interested in dreams. She has trained in Tibetan Buddhist meditation and undertaken a lucid dreaming course. As she takes value from dreams in real life, it’s no surprise that she believes dreams can be powerful tools in novels.
For Sarah, dreams are a place where the hidden parts of our psyche can emerge from the shadows. In The Silk Pavilion, they’re opportunities for analysis. The protagonist Lucy is an active explorer of her own mind, and the mystery afoot is central to the story: why does she choose to be with Miguel, an unpleasant, abusive man. The dreams reveal that Lucy still confuses abuse and love, and this is rooted in repressed memories from her early childhood. Her dreams bring the darkest parts of her into the light. Another benefit of these dreams are that they’re great for establishing a sense of foreboding regarding Lucy’s trauma.
Dreams also allowed Sarah to make Karl Jung a real character. He was interested in the hidden value of dreams himself and so dispenses his wisdom to Lucy – ‘When an inner situation is not made conscious it happens outside as fate’ – it is a distinctive, meta moment in The Silk Pavilion, because this quote is at the start of the book.
Sarah wrote the dream sequences of The Silk Pavilion with apprehension; her editor does not easily accept dreams in novels. There was a subsequent back-and-forth, where some dreams were cut or the nature of them were altered.
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