The City of Dreams
“‘For hundreds of years,’ my father said, ‘that city existed as long as one person dreamed of it each night.'”
This passage, about the childhood story that Langston/Isaac’s father had told him at a young age, resonated with me greatly in how it completely stuck out in a literary sense in the novel while still playing an anecdotal role in the narration of Langston’s journey. It was the combination of the fairytale fantasy tones of the passage with its moral relevance to the juxtaposed societal/political situations present in the novel.
“‘Don’t worry…I’ll dream of everything for you. I know every corner of this city by heart. Close your eyes at night and know that you are free.'”
The notion of a sudden mysterious hero swooping in to solve everyone’s issues greatly resembles the attitude towards revolution in the novel. With Joseph, he is able to “liberate” village after village simply by strolling in with his forces and reciting a speech of empty promises and freedom. Joseph attains power by taking advantage of the vulnerable Ugandan citizens, but because Joseph has a powerful vision for his efforts, no one is able to question his authority and wind up blindly following the image he paints for them. Even Isaac, one of the most outspoken characters in the novels, becomes misguided by the ease of the Joseph’s leadership despite his own moral conflict with his leadership.
“Those who tried to dream of the city again could see only their house or their street as it looked years ago, but that wasn’t dreaming, it was only remembering, and in a world where seeing was power, nostalgia meant nothing.”
The word that sticks out greatest in this quote is “power”, as it seems to break the poetic trance that the story puts the reader into. The story provides an interesting take on portraying reality, for Langston seems to be merely an observer to the degradation of the society he exists in, even though he is allies with the few members that decide to take defensive action. I found that this little segue in the novel provides the reader with a greater understanding of how Langston processes reality; nostalgically, in a dream-like trance.