Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Barren Woman Dream

By Markus Zusak

Barren Woman Dream

One night when Ed goes to sleep, he has a dream where a bunch of weird things happen:

  • There is a school where he cannot understand the writing on the wall. The teacher there ignores him, and then suddenly asks him to read the words—but he can't.
  • A woman is whipped and he can barely breathe seeing her; then she asks him if he can read the words now.
  • He can. They say: Barren Woman.

Then Ed wakes up; he repeats "Barren Woman" to himself. Now seems like a good time to make sure you know that "Barren Woman" is—amongst many other things—a poem by Sylvia Plath about a woman who is vulnerable in society and feels pressured to act a certain way. Ed finally understands the card: all the names on it belong to writers (including, of course, Plath).

This dream doesn't just help Ed figure out who the people on the card are though—it also tells us a little something about how our main guy is feeling. The poem is partially about a woman who feels pressure from society to have a baby even though she is infertile, a pressure that mutates her infertility into inadequacy, rendering her a lesser woman than others in her society. So though Ed is decidedly male, this reminds us that he feels like he hasn't accomplished anything compared to other people his age.

The poem showing up in his dream also hints at the fact that he's vulnerable and isolated, just like Plath's woman. His mom wishes he had more to show for himself; his brother jokes around with Ed about how he's still stuck at home; and even Ed feels quite aware of his shortcomings as a nineteen-year-old-cab driver. It's a lot for a dream—and a poem—to say, but then again, packing a punch is kind of their thing.

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