Dreams of the Unreachable: Thoughts on Gabriel García Márquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog

Consciousness is the lens through which we interpret reality. But are we searching subconsciously for a reality that matches our dreams?

Convex and Concave, M.C. Escher, 1955 © Esteban Romero with CCLicense
Convex and Concave, M.C. Escher, 1955
© Esteban Romero with CCLicense

“Don’t open that door,” she said. “The hallway is full of difficult dreams.” And I asked her: “How do you know?” And she told me: “Because I was there a moment ago and I had to come back when I discovered I was sleeping on my heart.”

                            ―Gabriel García Márquez, Eyes of a Blue Dog
© Honda News with CCLicense
© Honda News with CCLicense

Gabriel García Márquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog is a short story about a man and a woman who only meet in their dreams. If you aren’t familiar with it, or if you would like to read it again, please do so here.

© Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara with CCLicense
Gabriel García Márquez © Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara with CCLicense

García Márquez is a giant in the world of literature, famous for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. The short story format is an ideal vehicle for his ambiguous, surrealist images which exemplify the genre of magic realism. Professor Matthew Strecher defined that genre as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

This pearl of a story, which conveys an intense familiarity and perceptiveness with the world of dreams, seems to be hinting at some universal and profound truth about human consciousness. The most haunting quality of the piece is that the reader, like the dreamer, can’t completely grasp what that truth is.

On the surface the story is beguiling enough: a dreamer encounters the woman of his dreams in his dreams, but is unable to recognize her in the waking world, despite their efforts to find each other. If she is real and is dreaming at the same time that he is, that is a touchingly romantic tale, both delightful and tragic. But it isn’t the only possibility here. Not by a long shot. Whether real or not, does this woman symbolize something else? Or does he?

© Jody Sticca with CCLicense
© Jody Sticca with CCLicense

Their relationship is shaped by the confines and furniture of the dream room and subject to the things that manifest themselves there. Our protagonists spend time looking at each other in a mirror, which may suggest that they are elements of one another. This is foggy. If they are the same self, then why do they not appear face to face in the mirror? He looks away from the mirror to the blank wall and yet he can still see her as if the wall and the mirror were the same. It’s a dream; the rules of logic don’t apply here. But there may yet be some meaning behind it.

Carl Jung spoke of a female identity that was part of the male psyche, called the anima, and a male identity that was part of the female psyche, called the animus. Anima and animus serve as counterweights against our masculine and feminine natures and keep us balanced between a nurturing nature and an aggressive one. Can it be that these characters are related in that fashion?

© Subbiah Ramalingam with CCLicense
© Subbiah Ramalingam with CCLicense

Note that the most present furnishing in the room is not the mirror, but the lamp. The lamp illuminates and heats the room, and it appears here to be an open flame, conjuring up images of Psyche in the forbidden act of looking upon the face of Cupid. This dream is an act of revelation. Neither of these characters seems to be able to cross by the lamp to get to the side where the other waits. Our dreamer wants to; he desires to touch her. She seems convinced that this will ruin everything and break the spell that keeps them connected.

There is also the matter of temperature; she clearly feels the cold and attempts to warm herself. He forgets that he is cold, just as he forgets that he is smoking. This is his dream world and nothing here is permanent for him. For her, this world seems more concrete. In fact, her stories of her own reality, her waking world, sound implausible and dream like. Is she a graffiti artist, writing “Eyes of a blue dog” everywhere she passes?

© Mira John with CCLicense
© Mira John with CCLicense

In several instances, the man sees his lady as a construction made of copper. At times she almost seems to glow with light and is still not completely warmed or illuminated. Is it possible that she is the lamp of his soul, his anima, sent to spur him to find a better, more balanced self? Perhaps she symbolizes his dream reality, which he cannot realize when he is awake. She may be a nicknack, a precious museum piece, or some sort of clock ticking away the seconds of his life. These indistinct, half-realized images are all metaphors that might describe our attitudes toward our own dreams and aspirations. The visions we see in our minds are unattainable. This romantic dream has become difficult even as it is strangely comforting.

Nebulous Dream © sedrikone with CCLicense
Nebulous Dream © sedrikone with CCLicense

Is it worth hanging on to our dreams when we know we can never realize them as they are in our head? Is it worth trying to realize them at all? The precious relationship between these two characters or identities seems to urge us to keep trying to find balance between our ideal reality and the one we perceive around us. The failure of memory, logic, and reality to fulfill our deepest longings and dreams is both wonderful and terrible at the same moment. It is disappointment that drives us toward our best self.

Do you see something different, or something more? Please lend your eyes and thoughts.

14 thoughts on “Dreams of the Unreachable: Thoughts on Gabriel García Márquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog

  1. Pingback: Dreams of the Unreachable: Thoughts on Gabriel García Márquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog | Dreamrly.

  2. Pingback: Author’s Choice: Favorite Articles of 2013 | synkroniciti

  3. katmcdaniel Reply

    Reblogged this on synkroniciti and commented:

    Please enjoy our feature from last year on García Marquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog. He’s reached the other side now. Rest in Peace, Gabo.

  4. Kelly Ledsinger Reply

    She is cold hearted ( metal/copper ) . The idea of him changes her molecular structure . When enamel is applied to copper and heated with a torch ( the flame she plays with / the idea of the dream lover ) the enamel flows when it turns cherry red . The flame changes the molecular structure of the metal . Work hardening the metal with a light hammering also changes the structure on a molecular level . We are composed of atoms . Solid yet not . The world we exist in is permeable and yet it is not. The idea or ideal of things so often exists just outside of our reach . Life, love, longing and lust are the flames that forge us !

    New to your site . Very interesting . Thanks .

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Hi Kelly!

      Mmmmm! Lovely observation that really expands the allegory. Thank you! The heat, whatever form it takes, makes things happen. Sounds like you speak from experience working with metals. Marquez is so knowledgeable… the story works from all kinds of angles.

      Welcome to the site! Hope you enjoy it; you are always welcome here. Thanks for following us on Facebook, too. A little bird tells me that you are local; I’ll be sure to invite you to our next Open Mic in February. 🙂

      Happy holidays!

      • Kelly Ledsinger

        I look forward to it ! Please extend my thanks to the ” little bird ” .

  5. Michael Bennett Reply

    I read it as the woman being the main protagonist. She is dreaming herself in the man’s ‘dream’, as though she is transferring her obsessive feelings onto him.

    She must have seen this man in real life and manifested him in her dream in an attempt to contact him, or have him contact her (the latter being more romantic for herself).

    Him not being able to remember the phrase is simply a condition of her having dreamt him: he can’t pass into the waking world with information from someone else’s dream. But she can remember all the details of her own dream, hence her frustration at his ‘lack of memory’.

    Marquez giving us the perspective of the man seems to be his way of playing with our own view of perspective. It’s so wonderfully crafted. The psychology behind ‘seeing people’ whilst not looking at them (ie. Looking at a wall) is brilliantly put across.

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Very interesting! Certainly an angle that works and brings out some interesting colors. The person we dream in our dreams is never quite the person he or she is in real life, is it?

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Chinmay Reply

    Thank you for this post! With Marquez, I usually understand his meaning months after my first reading. However, when that happens I’m absolutely sure about what he meant. This happened with his novels, but not so much with the short stories. Your post gave me perspective!

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Thank you!! I am so glad it was useful. Marquez can take a while to digest. Happy reading!

  7. jen Reply

    What brought me to this page is that I woke up from a dream in which I was petting and talking to a dog whose coat was blue, I knew in a dream that such dog is not usual and I met a woman who was his “mother” and she said he was born that way. I woke up and grabbed my phone and started searching for a phrase: “BLUE DOG IN A DREAM”
    I don’t know how is this related to me, but I know there must be a connection as I myself am a female ‘twin flame’ who have met her twin in reality few years ago, but we are yet to re-unite. If someone has more thoughts on this could you email me at shukrialuv@gmail.com

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      How wonderful that this was able to relate to your dream! These things are all swimming around in the collective unconscious somewhere, I am sure. Let me review my notes for anything helpful.

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