George Orr's Torture by His Dreams in The Lathe of Heaven Essay

George Orr's Torture by His Dreams in The Lathe of Heaven Essay

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George Orr's Torture by His Dreams in The Lathe of Heaven

George Orr is tortured by his dreams because sometimes they come true. The world he wakes up to has changed into the world that he dreamed, sometimes radically, sometimes violently. As a teenager he dreams the death of his aunt and he awakens to finds that she was killed in a car accident six weeks before. He is horrified, and attempts to control his dreaming, but over the years some of his dreams and nightmares come true. Finally by the time he is thirty ( in the year 2002) he is becoming psychotic and he contemplates suicide but then turns to pep pills to stay awake to prevent dreaming. When he nearly overdoses, his landlord calls a medic who saves him but turns him in for illegal drug use - a minor offense that requires psychiatric therapy.
That's how he meets Dr. Haber, the novel's antagonist. Haber, a large, powerful, active man with curly brown hair and beard who prides himself on his professional psychiatric skills and his talent for manipulating his patients (for their own good of course), specializes in sleep disorders and dream research. He occupies a windowless office in a non-descript office building in Portland, Oregon, the setting for the novel. By using hypnotic suggestion and a brain wave generator called the "Augmentor", Haber is able to tell George what to dream and to his astonishment actually verifies George's ability.

George senses that Haber wants to use him, but because of his congenitally passive nature and fear of his uncontrolled dream states, allows the therapy to continue. After a few therapy sessions George seeks legal help so he can stop the therapy and really get cured. That's when he meets the lawyer, a black female who clicks and snaps and wears bangles and brass buckles and is reminiscent of a black widow spider waiting in her office when George arrives. Though outwardly very different (George is slight ,fair and quiet) they experience an inner chemistry and George later dreams that she is his wife, but at that point everybody is gray anyway. Her name is Heather and she gets dreamed in and out of the story at various points, appearing and disappearing as needed.

Instead of trying to cure him, Haber uses George's "effective dreaming" to create benevolent, far reaching changes in the world including population control, disarmament, and ecological regulations....

... middle of paper ...

...h idealized and exaggerated characters. What might they
stand for ?

2. How would you answer Haber's assertion that the purpose of man is to " do things , to
change things?"

3. Could you offer any evidence to either support or refute George's statement that the
universe is not a machine?

4. The aliens play a pivotal role in the resolution of the conflict between Haber and
George because they give George the power word which he uses and Haber fails to use.
What is the purpose of this word?

5. If Haber and George are personifications of opposites, how would you characterize the

6. Why do you think the aliens are described as "sea turtles?"

7. Each chapter in the book is headed by a quote. The quote for chapter 3 is: "Those
whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning.
They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let
understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who
cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven." - Chuang Tse. In the light of
this quote, how would you interpret the title of the book?

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