Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

by Gordon Dahlquist

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Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:49 am

Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy. Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.

Could The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters be considered an allegorical tale?
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby ladylinn » Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:12 pm

I did see allegory with the story of Veilandt's artwork. Unless observers were aware of the experiments of the blue glass, they would not be able to see through the work to its' real meaning. The art definately stood for something other than what was generally observed. As for the characters in the book, I saw greed, envy and power - not too much charity. I did not see allegory with the characters - maybe I just missed it. To me the characters were on a quest of overthrowing and ruling.

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby trygirl » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:07 pm

I think the book has a lot of allegories. There are numerous religious and biblical allegories throughout the story. The entire process could be seen as the quest for man to once again reclaim the Garden of Eden. The process brings about a certain lack of inhibition, shame, or fear and the Cabal talks a perfect world once again, a Paradise. Except this time the way to Paradise is through sin. And throughout the story, there are numerous references to gardens. Chang even finds the entrance to the Comte's process chamber through an urn in the garden. This could represents people's constant need for perfection.
But Rosamonde a.k.a. the Contessa is also a religious allegory. She's often referred as "the lady in red" by Miss Temple and is called a "Judas, the most beautiful angel" by Francis Xonck, which are both references to Satan and evil. And the offering of the glass books could be the "apple" offered to Adam and Eve. She is the serpent.
I also noticed a lot of Greek myth allegories throughout the book. The three prostitutes chosen for the transformation could easily represent the 3 Sirens in Greek mythology. Mrs. Marchmoor, Miss Poole, and Angelique are all temptresses with the power to lure people to their deaths…they represent Earthly temptation. And in Greek myth, the Sirens go off in search of Persephone just as Mrs. Marchmoor goes off in search of Miss Temple. Also Chang is reciting the poem "Persephone" when Miss Temple sees him on the train. I guess then one could say that Miss Temple is an allegory for Persephone or better yet purity and innocence. Persephone is known as the Goddess of Fertility and Earth and Miss Temple is fond of the color green which symbolizes these things. I also think the Comte is an allegory for the Greek God Bacchus or Dionysus.
Dionysus was the inspirer of religious madness, the theatre and ecstasy and the Comte conducts his process from the medical theatre at Haschmort. Not to mention Dionysus was a cult leader and said to be "twice born" because as a child he was torn to pieces and then reborn into another woman. The Comte is also "twice born"
Spoiler! :
by remaking himself into the Comte d'Orkancz and discarding his old identity of Oskar Veilandt.
He represents religious corruption and is the two-faced man. He cannot be trusted.
Mrs. Marchmoor, Miss Poole, and Angelique could also be an allegory for female oppression during the Victorian era. In the book, the women are literally shackled by other men and the process. They're used as mere objects or playthings by everyone in the story…they're simply property of the Cabal.
I also think Chang is a great allegory for the anti-establishment. He may wear glasses but they are not rose colored. He sees the world for what it really is, full of corruption and sin. He's against anything that puts one man above another such the nobility, the Church, the military, the government, big business. He does battle with all of it literally in the story. Chang could also stand for justice. He is blind so therefore all people are judged based on their actions, judged equally. It's the whole "justice is blind" theory.
But the story itself is an allegory for good vs. evil. A cautionary tale against the power of greed, envy, lust, etc. The perversion of religious rituals and ideals. The idea of Free Will vs. Omniscience played out through the Comte and Miss Temple. But if I'm way off base then just let me know. :lol:
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby Theresa » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:49 pm

Wow....trygirl and ladylinn

I have to :notworthy: to both of you. I did see a lot of symbolism in the story...lots of direct and not so direct references to religion and cultism, but I didn't associate them with a single allegorical meaning.

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby Liz » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:07 pm

Theresa wrote:Wow....trygirl and ladylinn

I have to :notworthy: to both of you. I did see a lot of symbolism in the story...lots of direct and not so direct references to religion and cultism, but I didn't associate them with a single allegorical meaning.

Ditto! I'm just speechless. :hatsoff:

I had a feeling Persephone could have been a tidbit when I read it. But I'm glad I didn't do one or I would have stolen your thunder, trygirl, as far as allegories go. The Garden of Eden had been a passing thought for me, but I hadn't related it to all of the garden scenes in the story. And I had no idea about the 3 sirens. :cool:

ladylynn, interesting point about there being an allegory within the story--that is, the true meaning of Veilandt's artwork.
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby trygirl » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:12 pm

Theresa wrote:Wow....trygirl and ladylinn

I have to :notworthy: to both of you. I did see a lot of symbolism in the story...lots of direct and not so direct references to religion and cultism, but I didn't associate them with a single allegorical meaning.


Thanks Theresa! :biglaugh: I tried really hard on this one.
Liz wrote:
Theresa wrote:Wow....trygirl and ladylinn

I have to :notworthy: to both of you. I did see a lot of symbolism in the story...lots of direct and not so direct references to religion and cultism, but I didn't associate them with a single allegorical meaning.

Ditto! I'm just speechless. :hatsoff:

I had a feeling Persephone could have been a tidbit when I read it. But I'm glad I didn't do one or I would have stolen your thunder, trygirl, as far as allegories go. The Garden of Eden had been a passing thought for me, but I hadn't related it to all of the garden scenes in the story. And I had no idea about the 3 sirens. :cool:

ladylynn, interesting point about there being an allegory within the story--that is, the true meaning of Veilandt's artwork.


And thanks, Liz! I'm glad you didn't still my thunder and decided not to mention Persephone. :lol:
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:45 pm

trygirl, you are aptly named! :lol: Very nice write up.

ladylinn and theresa, I too saw what I considered to be a lot of symbolism, esepcially of a religious nature associated with the original artwork and The Process. Now I'm wondering what else I missed!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:49 pm

Ok, I had come up with something completely different. I saw the concept of the glass books and the Process as an allegory about television/movies and the price of fame. The glass books are analogous to screens, either movie screens or TV screens. Really, what are the glass books but a medium through which we learn about the experiences of others?

Think about the price of fame for an actor. Easily identifiable, like a woman made of blue glass. Naked, there for all to see, but fragile, a public persona that is only an illusion. A facade that is easily shattered. Think of Britney Spears, or Amy Winehouse. Or Heath Ledger.

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:52 pm

I am completely out of my league on this one. :dunce: You are all amazing with your insights.

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby gemini » Thu Jan 22, 2009 5:43 pm

I sort of missed the Greek Mythology allegories and I am duly impressed again by trygirl and her many points. I did see the broad picture of society being seduced by forces of greed and ambition and using eroticism as the means of seduction. It is what some religious leaders say of present society.

My first impression of the whole book was that it was a parallel to the test of ones moral fiber or using your wits and what resolve you can find under the right circumstances to overcome. I guess this makes each of our three heros an allegory for growth, maturity and heroism.
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby Linda B. » Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:09 pm

I have to say unequivocally, "I hate allegories!" I hated reading them in college, I hated "The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe" for imposing it's allegorical themes on the story - and while I do watch what people are doing, I like enjoying a book for the story and where it takes me - I'm not in college anymore, so I'm a lazier reader.

That said - some of the comments here are fantastic. And once I've finished the book - I'll think them through & maybe re-read it with that in mind!
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby trygirl » Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:14 pm

fansmom wrote:Ok, I had come up with something completely different. I saw the concept of the glass books and the Process as an allegory about television/movies and the price of fame. The glass books are analogous to screens, either movie screens or TV screens. Really, what are the glass books but a medium through which we learn about the experiences of others?

Think about the price of fame for an actor. Easily identifiable, like a woman made of blue glass. Naked, there for all to see, but fragile, a public persona that is only an illusion. A facade that is easily shattered. Think of Britney Spears, or Amy Winehouse. Or Heath Ledger.


I like this fansmom. It's a creative way of looking at the story...through the perils of modern fame and it's celebrities. And I guess the Cabal is the evil media there to disseminate personal information via the glass books. It makes sense because the media has a way of making people see what they want them to. The media are the puppetmasters behind what the public thinks about a celebrity.

gemini wrote:I sort of missed the Greek Mythology allegories and I am duly impressed again by trygirl and her many points. I did see the broad picture of society being seduced by forces of greed and ambition and using eroticism as the means of seduction. It is what some religious leaders say of present society.

My first impression of the whole book was that it was a parallel to the test of ones moral fiber or using your wits and what resolve you can find under the right circumstances to overcome. I guess this makes each of our three heros an allegory for growth, maturity and heroism.


And thank you, Gemini. I try my best with the questions because all of you are so sharp and give such great answers. I definitely think the heroes represent growth, maturity, and heroism. But also body, mind, and soul. Chang could easily be the body because throughout the story, his is pushed to such harrowing limits. The Dr. Svenson would then be the mind because of all of his medical knowledge and philosophical pondering. And last but not least, Miss Temple could represent the soul. During her journey in the book, she goes through a period of soul-searching and self-observation.
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby gemini » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:47 pm

trygirl wrote:
And thank you, Gemini. I try my best with the questions because all of you are so sharp and give such great answers. I definitely think the heroes represent growth, maturity, and heroism. But also body, mind, and soul. Chang could easily be the body because throughout the story, his is pushed to such harrowing limits. The Dr. Svenson would then be the mind because of all of his medical knowledge and philosophical pondering. And last but not least, Miss Temple could represent the soul. During her journey in the book, she goes through a period of soul-searching and self-observation.
Yes, I see all three of those as well but I prefer the body :grin:
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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:54 pm

fansmom, that is a very interesting interpretation. I think everyone's thoughts on this question might make a good question for Mr. Dahlquist?


Linda B, I'm sort of with you on the allegory phobia. I've never been very good at sorting them out but I do appreciate reading the results when others can. I've been thinking about this one some more. I can't say that I've gone into much detail of thought but I can see this on an allegorical level in two ways. The first with religion, the basic good vs. evil story, or cultism, and also politically with dictatorial governments who control their populations for their own gain.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Glass Books Question #18 ~ Two Meanings?

Unread postby Theresa » Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:49 am

Then again...perhaps Dahlquist is of the same opinion as J.R.R. Tolkien on the subject of allegory....

JRR Tolkien, from the forward to The Lord of the Rings:

…I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author. (The Fellowship of the Ring 10-11)

Or just possibly I am playing devil's advocate here? :grin:


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