Study Guide

This Is Where I Leave You Dreams

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Judd has four dreams during the course of the novel, each of which deals with his predicament in its own special way. In fact, these dreams even have their own set of symbols to help us better understand Judd's midlife crisis.

Let's take a look at these dreams in more detail:

The Dreams

  • Dream 1 - Judd's first dream has been recurring since he broke up with Jen. In the dream, he's running down Route 120 when he suddenly realizes that he's wearing a prosthetic leg. Interestingly, Judd ends up running down Route 120 in real life later in the novel.
  • Dream 2 - Judd's next dream is a lot weirder. At first, he's having sex with Jen, although he still only has one leg. Suddenly the identities start to shift, as they sometimes do in dreams. Jen changes into Penny, who changes into Chelsea, while Judd transforms into Wade. The dream ends when a Rottweiler appears and runs toward Judd.
  • Dream 3 -The tenor of Judd's dreams changes slightly after Saturday night. Now, he's sitting in the garage while his dad fixes something at the work bench. It's Judd's prosthetic leg. He reattaches it to Judd's knee and it transforms into a real leg. Judd's father smiles at him lovingly before then dream ends.
  • Dream 4 - Judd's final dream comes the night after he runs down Route 120. This time he's sitting shiva butt naked. Both Jen and Penny are there. Judd sees his father in the back of the room, looking like he did when he was "much younger" and holding a baby (42.1). Judd tries to run to him, but he's not wearing his prosthesis and falls on his face. His dad leaves through the front door.

The Interpretation

Obviously, the key symbol here is Judd's amputated leg. At first, Judd feels like his other half (Jen) is missing like a phantom limb. However, something changes down the line and the symbol begins to shift. This change reflects Judd's realization that his father's death is weighing more heavily than he had previously thought.

Judd doesn't feel like a man—that's why his father becomes a large presence in the dreams. You can see proof in the fact that only Mort is able to give Judd his "real leg again, hairless and pink, but whole and unharmed" (32.1). This indicates two things: that Judd will only find peace by reckoning with his father, and that he still has a chance at a fresh start.

The final dream represents the torch getting passed to Judd. At that moment, he realizes that his dad didn't have all the answers. He didn't always know what he was doing. He didn't always make the right decision. But he always tried, no matter what inner turmoil he was going through. It's this example that inspires Judd to take responsibility for his life.

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