It would be a violation of the spirit of the cartoon. Such symbols might satisfy objective values but not the intrinsic demands of the newly created picture, which like every creation becomes more than the sum-total of its constituents in that it exhales an atmosphere or personality. In the same way the dream is a new creation, and the symbols, besides having to satisfy the objective and subjective values of the "things they stand for, must to a certain extent modify themselves to satisfy the evolving spirit of the dream. Or, to put it in another way, the medium in which any creation is cast makes certain definite demands of its own, and thus complicates and even distorts the creative impulse behind it. The extent to which the demand is satisfied in dreams varies, and depends, perhaps, on the strength of the creative motive from the unconscious coupled with the degree of the tranquillity of the conscious mind. At times there may be great confusion of symbolism in dreams, especially in states of exhaustion or excitement, just as there may be great confusion of metaphor in the speeches of exhausted and excited orators. But in a clear, cool, and vivid dream, the symbolism shows a strong tendency towards naturalness and coherence. It remains on one level of values.
In the dream under consideration the man and the rope demand a point of fixation at the top of the cliff. A tree or post or rock would satisfy the medium of the dream, but apparently an inanimate object does not satisfy the creative motive behind the dream. A living figure is demanded, and a human figure is most natural to the scene. Thus it is perhaps possible to see in the human figure at the top of the cliff a symbol that is the outcome of two forces and represents the most suitable compromise ; the two forces being the creative motive which seeks to condense its meaning into symbols, and the resistant medium of the dream itself which seeks to satisfy its own demands.
The symbol that we have tentatively assumed to be connected with the will is shown apart from the dreamer on the top of the cliff. A little boy, in actual life, could scarcely be expected to support a grown man hanging over a precipice, and yet the dream suggests that this is possible. This in itself suggests a symbolic value in the figure. The idea that this might simply be in the nature of an artistic exaggeration, to emphasize the danger, has already been mentioned, and is inadequate. It is possible to view the discrepancy in another light. If the symbol contains the idea of the will, the rope represents the link between it and the dreamer.
The problem to be investigated can now be stated thus : it is necessary to examine the manner in which the unconscious portrays what is commonly known as an effort or act of will, and explain why the figure at the end of the rope should be a little boy, and not simply a full-sized figure.
When a sane man makes an excursion into vice, or permits himself to embark on a course of self-indulgence deliberately, he usually sets himself a limit. He says to himself that he will go so far, and no farther. If he sets himself no limit, and goes farther and farther, a stage arrives when his friends say that he has gone too far, implying that any return is now problematical if not impossible.
The phrases of common speech, which arise instinctively out of the depths of the mind, find frequent parallel in the symbolism of dreams, suggesting that they have some common source of origin. If a man deliberately says he will go so far in some escapade, he means—unconsciously—that he will go a certain distance from some point or base, but not far enough to lose all communication with that point or base. What is that point or base ? It represents the fulcrum of his normal life ; his- customs, conventions, and morality; the standard of what is established in him as proper, prudent, and social. It is the fort in the midst of the wilds, and the man is careful, when going into the wilds in search of adventure, not to lose sight of it.
But the metaphor of the fort only expresses a very superficial aspect of what happens, when compared with the symbolism of the dream. The dream shows that the morphinist has gone a certain way from the top of the cliff—the position of normal safety—down the side of the precipice, but he is still in contact with that which remains on the top. That which remains on the top is now relatively small, but is not inanimate, like a fort, but alive; it is a force operating from the level of normal safety. This force is holding the dreamer back from the gulf, but that is all. It is for the dreamer himself to say the word if he wants to be pulled up. It would therefore seem that the ultimately decisive factor of the dreamer's personality has the choice of events; moreover, it is shown as attached to or resident in that part of the dreamer which is going over the precipice. A deduction of some value in prognosis might be made. The morphinist is deliberately a morphinist.
When the common phrase is used that a man's will is weakening as he goes along some path of indulgence, it implies that something is strengthening. What is strengthening is the attractive power of the vice. But in the dream, the attractive power of morphia is represented by the force of gravitation, and the force of gravitation is a constant force; it does not increase or diminish appreciably at any surface point of the earth.
But there are certain variable elements in the dream. The position of the figure over the cliff can vary, and with it the length of the rope. The size of the figure at the top of the cliff might also vary without in any way violating the spirit of the dream. If, then, we examine the length of the rope and the size of the figure on the cliff-top in the light of relatively variable factors, the explanation of the smallness of the figure on the cliff-top may be found to lie in the length of the rope, as if the rope drew itself out of the figure, and so caused it to shrink.