Theme of Dream in “Dream Story” by Arthur Schnitzler

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The prominent theme in “Dream Story” is that of a dream. Thestoryline is an intricate narration of the encounters of Fridolin,who is a doctor, married and of middle age. As he roams in Vienna atnight, he meets Marianne, who is the daughter of his terminally illpatient, a prostitute referred to as Mizzi, a costume shop owner’sdaughter, and an unidentified female at an orgy. The events as wellas the thoughts that permeate Fridolin’s encounters all through thenight are symbolic of the author’s life. Hence, in the followingdiscussion, the essay argues that the theme of a dream in “DreamStory” is a representation of the subconscious state of ArthurSchnitzler.


Schnitzler uses a dream to explore his own life via the characterand encounters of his protagonist. The similarities in characterbetween Fridolin in “Dream Story” and Schnitzler result in theconclusion that Fridolin’s experiences have been used to examinethe author’s life. The author, through a dream, writes a narrativewhere he includes personal experiences as well as attitudes aboutwomen. The dream acts as “a sort of substitute for thethought-processes, full of meaning and emotion” (Moir 3). Hence,Schnitzler uses the theme of a dream as an endeavor to analyze hissubconscious. He achieves this through the creation of Fridolin, as acharacter who represents his real life personality. By doing so, theauthor is able to disassociate himself from his feelings and is ableto assess the events that have occurred in his life.

The story begins by presenting Fridolin as a selfish charactertowards the wife, Albertine. When his wife confesses to be physicallyattracted towards another man, Fridolin is disgusted at theimagination that his wife might have slept with different men, otherthan him. On the contrary, he justifies his sexual behavior asappropriate and expects his wife to accept his indiscretions. This isinitially apparent in the way Fridolin expresses his high regard forhis wife’s premarital virginity. He is disgusted by the wife’sconfession that choosing to remain a virgin was unintentional.However, it is apparent that the character had many lovers prior tomarriage, which he justifies by saying that he sought for Albertinein every other woman. When the wife questions what would havehappened if she sought for him in other men, Fridolin is troubled bythe imagination of Albertine being impure prior to their marriage(Schnitzler 207). Such double standard on the issue of virginity isas well evident in Schnitzler’s life as is evident from an analysisof his personal diary. Despite having had a mistress, he ended theaffair following her confession of infidelity, yet Schnitzler wasalways unfaithful to her (Moir 1). In addition, he refers to women asuntrustworthy and that almost all women are whores (Moir 2). BothFridolin and Schnitzler engaged in erotic encounters yet do notexpect their lovers to do the same.

The main characters interaction with different females demonstratesegotistical attitudes towards them. For instance, when Mariannedeclares her attraction towards Fridolin, he reacts by noting that“he had always known that she was in love with him or imagined thatshe was in love with him” (Schnitzler 207). This remark is anindication of a narcissistic man, who believes that women desire him.His egotistical nature towards women is further evident when heencounters a girl in an orgy. Although he is the one attracted toher, he explains that she appeared spellbound by his presence.Fridolin’s regards himself as highly desirable by all women hemeets. Such an attitude is also apparent in Schnitzler’s behavior.The author was also fixated on the idea that women were attractedtowards him. His diary entries demonstrate a character that engagedin many affairs and had numerous mistresses. Also, Schnitzleroverwhelmingly describes himself as a man desired by ladies andprogresses to flaunt his ability to woe many women in the similarmanner as the protagonist in “Dream Story” (Moir 2). Thus, theuse of a dream to constantly assert Fridolin’s desirability bywomen is an illustration of Schnitzler’s subconscious obsessionwith continuous attention from females.

All through “Dream Story” the protagonist’s characterresembles the real life of Schnitzler in regard to their attitudesand experiences they encounter. The erotic adventures of Fridolincommence with the house call, as a doctor. Readings on Schnitzlerreveal that he was also a doctor, for instance Raphael (1) explainsthat “medicine offered Schnitzler a stable, respectable career”.The statement confirms the author’s profession. Fridolin meets aprostitute referred to as Mizzi. In the story, she is described asthe woman whom the character feels attracted to, because unlike theother women he meets, she is the only one who accepts his rejectionof sex (Schnitzler 218). From the author’s diaries, it is apparentthat he also had an encounter with a woman referred to as MarieGlumer, who used the nickname Mizi. In addition, Fridolin comesacross a woman at a party who uses a fake name to check in her hotel.The same disguise was employed by the women Schnitzler met in Vienna.These illustrations indicate that all through the narrative, theprotagonist is the foil for the author’s subconscious. WhileFridolin discusses his encounters in the similar manner that anindividual may describe a dream, it becomes apparent that theseexperiences are in actuality events that have happened inSchnitzler’s life.

The author further uses the dream to inform about the life of thepeople in Vienna towards the turn of the century, when the novel waswritten. He subconsciously informs the reader about the differentsocial classes in Vienna. For instance, Fridolin attends a partywhere, despite wearing a costume, he is referred to as an intruderand is chased away from the event. The publicized sexuality of theparty indicates that it did not comprise of people from a high socialclass (Moir 3). He comes from a high social class, owing to thefather’s status. However, due to Schnitzler’s constant attractionto women, he finds himself associating with individuals from thelower class. It becomes apparent that through “Dream Story”,Schnitzler has had an experience of the different Viennese’s socialclass. He seeks to portray these classes through the fiction of adream.


The theme of a dream has been used in “Dream Story” as asubconscious depiction of the author’s real life. The authorchooses a protagonist, whose character, attitudes and events thathappen in life, are a representation of Schnitzler’s actual life.Thus, through the dream, it becomes possible for the author toreflect upon his life.

Works Cited

Moir, Sarah K. Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story: Fridolin’s Dreamas Schnitzler’s Subconscious. Constructing the Past 12.1(2011): 1-6.

Raphael, Frederic. Dream Story – Introduction by Frederic Raphael.Scraps from the Loft, 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.

Schnitzler, Arthur. Dream Story in Night Games and Other Storiesand Novellas, trans. Margret Schaefer. Chicago: Ivan R, 2002.

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