Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beka Cooper's nightmare

I have this habit of listening to audio books as I go to sleep, and recently I've been listening to Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper: Bloodhound. (I'm actually sort of on my third time listening to it this year...yes I know I'm a nut.) My interest in how dreams/visions are used in books did not end with the final paper I wrote on the topic for spring term, so I want to take a look at the dream on pages 72-3 of this book.

And no, the dream does not qualify as a spoiler, I think. It concerns an event that occurs between books 1 and 2 of the Beka Cooper quartet (Bloodhound being the second book) which we only hear about in this dream.

I had the burning man dream again. It's like it was four months ago. I see that cove run into the curst Cesspool building with his torch. I hear the bang as he slams the door and the clack as he bars it. I'm blowing my Dog whistle as hard as ever I can, but no sound's coming out. And I'm trying to run to the building, trying so hard my legs ache, but I'm too gods-curst slow, no matter how hard I push.

Then all of a sudden the whole thing is on fire. Flames stream out of all the windows. Even though I couldn't see the faces of them that were jumping out of the building that night it happened for real, in the dream I always see them. They're burning just like the real dead burned that night, and in the dream they were faces I know. Today it was my sisters and by brothers. They were burning alive. I was running hard to save them, but my feet hit the mud so slow, one at a time, and the burning building was moving away from me. My brother Willes was getting ready to jump. I reached out to him, my mouth open to scream
.

First of all, there's the opening sentence, "I had the burning man dream again." That actually tells us a lot, right there. It tells us that not only is this a dream she's had before, but that she has had it often enough that she actually has a name for it: the burning man dream.

Then we've also got the fact that Beka sees people she knows, and in this case her family, in the building. This could mean one of three -- or three of three -- things:

1) Her siblings no longer live in the Cesspool, but they used to. Beka sometimes thinks about what could have happened to her family if they had not been lucky enough to escape the slums, and this could be her subconscious doing just that.

2) Beka is from the Cesspool, and she still considers those who live there to be her own people. Even though she does not know many of them by name, or even by sight (it's a big place!) they are her own people, and the fact that her dreams put people she knows in the place of those who did die that night could indicate how she feels about the people of the Cesspool.

3) ...

I know I had a third idea, but now it's gone. Dang it.

If I had to make an argument for one and only one of these interpretations I'd go for number 2, simply because of something Beka writes in her diary in the first book: "The Lower City is MINE, its people are MINE. If I find them that's doing all this kidnapping and murdering, they'd best pray for mercy, because once I get my teeth in 'em I will NEVER let them go." She says Lower City here, but I'm pretty sure that encompasses the Cesspool, and she makes it very clear that she considers them to be her own people.

So, to sum everything up...

This is a dream she keeps having, it shows her attachment to the people in the Cesspool, and it might also indicate that she fears what might be happening to her siblings if they still lived there.

This dream doesn't really do anything to move the plot of the story forward, and in fact it's totally unrelated to events in this book so far as I can tell. But it's still important because it shows us more of her character and helps to round her out.

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