King Leodogran's dream in “The Coming of Arthur" (1859) illustrates the notion of profound realization, disguised by something simple, as it relates to subjective decision making. This passage describes the way in which King Leodogran finally came to approve Arthur as a suitable husband for his daughter. A reader need not and probably will not comprehend the strange contents of the ambiguous dream, instead they need only recognize the significance of his having made a decision based on private psychological experience. Tennyson asks his audience to appreciate the importance of exploring and establishing one's own personal beliefs and their reasons for having them. He invites them to follow the lead of King Leodogran and listen to their subconscious, to reexamine their faith in God, in others and in themselves.

Dickens elicits a similar response from his audience when he depicts Pip's change of heart at the end of the novel. Recovering from his encounter with Orlick and confined to his bed, Pip has a feverish dream and a resulting realization:

That I had a fever and was avoided, that I suffered greatly, that I often lost my reason, that the time seemed interminable, and that I was a brick in the house wall, and yet entreating to be released from the giddy place where the builders had set me; that I was a steel beam of a vast engine, clashing and whirling over a gulf, and yet that I implored in my own person to have the engine stopped, and my part in it hammered off; that I passed through these phases of disease, I know of my own remembrance, and did in some sort know at the time. That I sometimes struggled with real people, in the belief that they were murderers, and that I would all at once comprehend that they meant to do me good, and would then sink exhausted in their arms, and suffer them to lay me down, I also knew at the time. But, above all, I knew that there was a constant tendency in all these people-who, when I was very ill, would present all kinds of extraordinary transformations of the human face, and would be much dilated in size-above all, I say, I knew that there was an extraordinary tendency in all these people, sooner or later, to settle down into the likeness of Joe. (430)

This realization significantly affects Pip's life (just as King Leodogran's impacts his own and that of his daughter). Both literally and figuratively, Joe appears before Pip, proving he will stand by him unconditionally and that he remains undeniably his oldest and truest friend.

Both authors present these dream sequences as epiphanies, if enigmatic ones. The revelations seems indecipherable , but enlighten and affect the characters profoundly nevertheless. Within their complexity, both visions contain symbols and/or metaphors that emphasize man's smallness on earth. Pip sees himself as various parts in a whole, while King Leodogran recognizes the insignificant presence of an individual as compared to “the peak", “the herd" and “the phantom king". Although not directly religious, these curious spiritual images bring a reader back to the origin of this technical literary term Epiphany, meaning the coming of the Magi to Jesus at Bethlehem.

On that note, a reader may be inclined to examine these passages in terms of religious context. Both authors seem to have believed in a moderate and practical religion as opposed to a restrictive and offensively evangelical one (if not, it comes across in their writing that way). It follows that as a Broad Church Anglican would interpret the Bible - “divinely inspired...but not literally true", and would assert that the “scriptures should be read metaphoricaly or even mythologically", perhaps we should read the aforementioned epiphanies likewise. ("Broad Church", Victorian Web)

In other words, we may better appreciate Dickens' and Tennyson's texts if we consider the religious dissention and change of the period. We can deduce that they appreciate religion for the hope, goodness and learning it inspires, and that their characters benefit most when they do the same.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations Idylls of the King

Last modified 1996