The Drowned World

The Drowned World Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That night, Kerans dreams that he walks to the deck of the testing station. The sun is giant and pulsing. The water is filled with writhing snakes and eels. As the sun gets closer and drums loudly, vegetation suddenly whips back from limestone cliffs to reveal the heads of giant lizards. The lizards roar at the sun in syncopation with the rhythm of both the solar flares and Kerans’s pulse. Kerans feels a magnetic pull to the reptiles and he steps into the lake, feeling the barriers between his body and the water dissolving.
Although the lizards in the dream aren't iguanas specifically, they certainly recall the iguanas Kerans heard in the town square. The synchronization and merging imagery of the dream creates the sense that Kerans is truly becoming a part of the environment, which further discredits the idea that humans are separate from or opposed to nature.
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When Kerans wakes, he has a splitting headache. He can still hear the beating sun, and he realizes it's beating in time with his heart. He's unable to shake the sound, and he wonders what exactly is going on in his mind. He pulls himself together when he remembers that Beatrice has these dreams too, and realizes how courageous she is. He also realizes that he's been minimizing mentions of other people's dreams as though he knew that he'd soon dream them too.
Kerans gives the overwhelming sense that experiencing the dreams is something inevitable. Further, he suggests that it's something he accepted he would experience long ago, even if he didn't realize it. The passage shows that subconscious thought processes influence Kerans’s actions consistently.
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Related Quotes
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Bodkin is sipping coffee in the gallery when Kerans enters. He tells Kerans that he's "one of the dreamers now" and asks if the dream was a deep one. Kerans asks how many experience the dreams. Bodkin says that Riggs doesn't, but about half his men and Beatrice do. Bodkin continues that he's been having them for three months, and it's the same recurrent dream every night. He shares that Kerans held out a long time, which is testament to the "strength of his preconscious filters." Smiling, Bodkin says he never discussed the dreams with anyone but Hardman. He asks Kerans if he picked up on the relationship between the pulsing sun and his own pulse, and explains that the record he played for Hardman was a recording of his own pulse.
Again, the dreamscapes are intrinsically linked to the bodies of the dreamers, which suggests that a merger between the body and the environment will happen in the real (i.e., non-dream) world at some point in the future. Bodkin talks as though the dreams themselves are all the same between dreamers, though the dreams are private experiences that go unspoken as a general rule. This begins to call into question the role of interpersonal relationships in relation to the dreams, and sheds some light on Hardman's shot at Wilson because it suggests that Hardman's private experience was more important to him than his relationship to Wilson.
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Kerans looks out the window. Sergeant Daley is standing on the deck and Kerans wonders if he just woke up from the dream too. Kerans can still hear the drumming sun. He begins to find the drumming soothing, but still thinks that the reptiles were horrifying. He thinks that the divisions between phantoms and reality are indistinguishable.
The repeated drumming of the sun is its own cycle, which echoes the idea that time itself is cyclical. Kerans’s inability to distinguish between phantoms and reality suggests that he has begun to lose touch with reality, perhaps in a way that is similar to Hardman’s loss of touch with reality.
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Kerans asks Bodkin for Hardman's alarm clock and mentions taking medication before bed. Bodkin firmly tells Kerans not to take anything, as it makes the dreams worse. He reminds Kerans that he was actually dreaming an ancient, organic memory. Bodkin continues that the releasing mechanisms in Kerans’s body have been triggered, and that Kerans actually remembers the swamps and lagoons. He says that Kerans won't be scared after a few nights, and explains that the dreams are the reason why Camp Byrd has ordered them to move north. Kerans asks about the joke Pelycosaur, and Bodkin explains that nobody took their report seriously because their "Pelycosaur" wasn't the first to be reported.
Bodkin makes it very clear that there's no way around experiencing the dreams. The only way forward is to accept them, as any attempts to stop them will be futile. This adds extra weight to the idea that Camp Byrd is aware that the dreams are severely altering the minds of people in the south. In this way, the dreams are at once a group problem and a private experience. Those at Camp Byrd, however, seek to control the dreams by moving north, something that Bodkin seems to believe isn't going to work.
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Riggs enters the room and good-naturedly waves his baton at Kerans and Bodkin. He tells Kerans he looks glassy and then begins explaining his plans for their departure tomorrow. Kerans stops listening and thinks that Riggs doesn't understand since he doesn't have the dreams. Bodkin seems to be ignoring Riggs as well. When Riggs leaves, Kerans and Bodkin sit silently for a moment before Kerans shares that he might not be leaving. Bodkin pulls out cigarettes and asks Kerans if he knows what city they're in. When Kerans doesn't, Bodkin explains that they're in London, and that he (Bodkin) grew up here.
For Bodkin, his unwillingness to leave is complicated because he possesses memories of his early life in this particular city in addition to the biological memories that were actually experienced by others. For now, these two types of memories seem to work in tandem to keep Bodkin in London. This sets the novel up to question how these types of memory differ, particularly since Bodkin's actual memories don't seem to have the same kind of controlling power as the biological ones.
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Bodkin continues that he rowed to the University quarter yesterday where his father used to teach. He mentions that he saw the planetarium, the shell-like dome of which is still underwater. Bodkin says the sight of it seemed to bring his childhood closer, and that this city is the only home he's ever known. Bodkin stops abruptly, but Kerans asks him to go on.
The "shell-like" planetarium dome creates the feeling that this part of town was sheltering and safe for Bodkin as a child. This reinforces the idea that the world right now is in an incubatory state: Bodkin, Kerans, and everyone else are in a process of rebirth or transformation.
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