Study Guide

The Lathe of Heaven Chapter 2

By Ursula K. LeGuin

Chapter 2

  • Now we're in Dr. William Haber's office.
  • Haber's staring at a giant photograph of Mt. Hood and wondering when the picture was taken. It can't be modern: in this world, the greenhouse effect has destroyed snowy mountaintops and beautiful blue skies, even in Antarctica.
  • Haber is distracted from the painting when George Orr walks into his office.
  • George is thin, has fair hair and eyes, and seems like the most ordinary guy you could ever meet.
  • Dr. Haber, on the other hand, is about as sleazy as a used-car salesman. He's a sleep doctor, and he guesses that George has been trying to stop his dreams.
  • Well, it turns out that's a pretty dangerous thing. Something that could even be deadly.
  • It takes a while, but George finally tells Dr. Haber why he's been avoiding dreaming: his dreams change things. The dreams don't just come true, and they're not just prophetic—they actually change reality.
  • Well, you might think that George has taken one pill too many, but Ursula Le Guin has some other news for you.
  • George tells the story of the first time he was sure he changed reality. He was 17, and he had an aunt who kept trying to have sex with him. One night, he had a dream in which she was killed in a car crash, and when he woke up, his aunt was gone. It's not that she left: the past was actually totally different. She was killed in a car crash, so she was never there with George at all.
  • And the weird (weirder?) thing is, no one actually notices when George changes the past.
  • Even after hearing all of this, Dr. Haber doesn't seem to be the least bit disturbed. He asks George a bunch of other questions and then makes a decision: he'll just force George to dream until he's not afraid of dreaming anymore.
  • Obviously.
  • There is a pretty long monologue by Dr. Haber explaining his fancy-pants machine, but all you need to know is that it makes people dream.
  • So Dr. Haber puts George under hypnosis and tells him to dream about a horse. Surprisingly, the whole thing works. Even more surprisingly, George actually changes reality.
  • Remember that picture of Mt. Hood? Well, now it's a picture of a horse. Dr. Haber doesn't even seem to notice. In his mind, it's always been a picture of a horse, and George is just insane.
  • Yeah, George totally called that, Doc.
  • The chapter ends with Dr. Haber ordering George to come see him after work every day.