The boy holds the rope, from which the dreamer is suspended over the void. The boy is small; if he let the rope go, presumably the dreamer falls. Therefore, with these considerations, we may say the symbol of the boy stands for something small which intervenes between the dreamer and certain disaster. Now the patient observed at one point in the first interview that without morphia he could not sleep. The boy, then, may symbolize the small excursion into morphinism, in which case the precipice would symbolize the danger of insomnia. Sedatives frequently prevent mental breakdown.
That is a fact of experience. But to this rendering of the dream there is an objection.
To look upon morphia as something necessary to the" patient, as something so essential that without it he would meet with certain disaster—as a result of insomnia—is to take a view that corresponds exactly with the view expressed by the morphinist in the course of conversation. He thought it absurd that his relatives had made a fuss, because he knew that he was in no danger from the morphia itself, but that if he gave it up —which he could quite easily do—he would get no sleep and without sleep he could not remain sane. The strain of the war, he was sure, had made him a nervous wreck. Morphia was his salvation. This was the conscious estimate.
It would be useless to deny the possible truth of this interpretation of his position; but if we take the meaning of the dream in the manner suggested above, we find it is nothing more than a condensation of his conscious opinion into a symbolic picture. Had he been given the hint that the little boy might symbolize the young habit of morphia, he would probably have eventually grasped the suggestion and allowed his thoughts to flow with sufficient freedom to cover the meaning of the dream as a whole. The dream would thus be a triumphant vindication of his position. The objection therefore to this interpretation is its correspondence with the fully-expressed—if not the over-expressed—attitude in consciousness. What is fully expressed in consciousness cannnot be said to belong to the unconscious.
If the dream is approached by the symbol of the precipice, the most natural explanation is that it signifies the danger of morphinism. The precipice is a familiar, universal, instinctive metaphor for moral danger. The dreamer is shown to be some way down the fatal precipice of morphinism, but not yet out of reach. He is connected by a rope with the top. Now it would be possible to interpret the dream in a very simple way by saying that it emphasizes the dreamer's danger from the drug by showing him that there was very little between him and disaster. The little boy would stand merely for the equivalent of something little. But this interpretation, although probably nearer the truth than the first, does not satisfy all the aspects of the dream. It does not explain the impression of the dreamer that he could command the little boy to pull him up into safety. But there is one condition that it does fulfil. It shows an estimate of the dreamer's position that differs entirely from the conscious estimate. It is a symbolic picture of values that were not represented in the morphinists consciousness. He was not haunted by a vision of incurable morphinism, but viewed his habit as something salutary, and, I fancy, a little romantic.
The dreamer does not connect the boy with any objective individual. This observation may have two meanings. It may indicate that the little boy symbolizes something unknown to the dreamer, or it may simply indicate that the little boy has no objective signification. Supposing that the little boy at the top of the cliff had been a great friend of his. Then it is obvious that the friendship would have some important bearing on the safety of the morphinist, and the dream would have, to a certain extent, an objective significance ; or at least it would contain an important objective significance in its first application. But no such objective significance is hinted at. The little boy is unknown to the dreamer, and not clearly seen ; he is dimly outlined, and manifests himself chiefly as a point of fixation for the upper end of the rope. Though the symbol has no objective connection, it is not meaningless. Its value may be wholly subjective. It may be an expression of something in the dreamer's self.
To the outside observer the position of the patient seemed clear. He required to make an effort of will for a short time to overcome the still nascent state of morphinism. His case was not deeply pathological. A tentative value may therefore be placed on the symbol of the little boy. He may, in some way that requires close examination, be connected with what is commonly known as an effort of will.
Certain peculiarities at once attract the attention if this interpretation is allowed. The symbol is shown as situated on the top of the cliff apart from the dreamer, and it would seem that it was powerless to act save when told to do so by, the dreamer—or rather, by that person or part of the dreamer which hangs down the precipice and is the percipient of the dream. Moreover, a little boy may be accounted an odd symbol to have any con-nection with the will. This last peculiarity may be dealt with first, because it opens up a subject of considerable importance in symbolism. The basic symbol of the dream is the precipice, and the scene is worked up round the theme of the force of gravitation, which represents the attractive power of morphia. The other symbols take form as familiar adjuncts to the fundamental plot. The unwritten law of metaphor or parable or cartoon is that the figures or symbols utilized must bear a natural relationship to one another. If one compares youth, by a figure of speech, to springtime, it is bad art to speak in the same sentence of old age as an hour-glass from which the sands have almost run. It is bad art because it violates a natural tendency of the mind which expects spring to be contrasted with winter. If a cartoonist wished to represent a situation in which the downfall of the government was certain unless it acceded to the irritating demands of a small party, he might use the symbol of the precipice over which was suspended the leader of the government. But it would be inconceivably bad art to represent the small and irritating party at the other end of the rope by the symbol of a mosquito, or a drop of croton oil, although both these objects are small and irritating.