Study Guide

A Dream Within a Dream Philosophical Viewpoints: Skepticism

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Philosophical Viewpoints: Skepticism

The idea that everything we experience might all be one big dream is often associated with skepticism, a philosophy that calls into question our ability to know things for certain. "A Dream Within a Dream" is about a guy who initially adopts the skeptical position that all of life is just a dream within a dream. At the end of the poem, however, there's a tricky about-face where the speaker becomes skeptical about his skepticism. He decides that he's not really so sure about the whole life-is-a-dream philosophy and leaves the question open, and the vicious cycle never ends.

Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints: Skepticism

  1. Why do you think the speaker is unsure at the end of the poem?
  2. What, if anything, might be significant about the fact that the skeptical position is first attributed to the woman?
  3. What do you make of all the description in the second stanza? Is the speaker trying to prove or deny something? Why do we suddenly shift to such a concrete setting?

Chew on This

The speaker's decision not to believe that life is a dream within a dream makes him the ultimate skeptic.

The speaker is way too skeptical when it comes to the sand. It's in his hands, so the fact that's it slipping away doesn't mean reality isn't real. Duh.

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