Dream Story, Traumnovelle in original language, represents an image of dismay the individual may feel facing the ambiguous reality of existence. This image is told by the means of the story of a marriage crisis occurring to a bourgeois couple in Vienna at the beginning of the Twenty Century.
Arthur Schnitzler’s great writing succeeds in making this setting ethereal and dreamlike so that the affective dimension of the main characters’ relationship seems like being moved toward the streets of Wien and, only after their psychological transformation, brought back to the intimacy of their bedroom.
The focus on dreams suggests a link between Arthur Schnitzler’s novel and the work of the neurologist Sigmund Freud. However this is more related to a matter of mutual admiration and shared interest in the mysterious universe of the unconscious, whose topics are treated autonomously and in line with their respective disciplines.
In fact, with an immediate style Schnitzler presents the tangle of distress, aggressiveness, repressed desired that characterises the unconscious dimension of the relationship between the medical doctor Fridolin and his wife Albertine. However, Schnitzler is not just interested in bringing out their unconscious, but in giving materiality to what he calls “middle consciousness” namely a dimension in which the conscious and the unconscious meet.
In the real world this dimension exists in the individual experience of the dream, but the magic power of literature and the great writing of Schnitzler make it concrete and ready to explode in the daily routine of Fridolin and Albertine in order to lead them to a higher level of intimacy.
“there were dreams entirely easy to forget, which one could find no trace of, except for a certain strange state of mind, a mysterious daze. Or one would remember about them only later, much more later, being unable to realise whether it had been a real experience or only a dream”
The dream is presented as a clarifying element able to balance the idea conveyed by the mask and the mystery it entails. The mask as a symbol of alienation refers to the couple’s gradual estrangement caused by those impulses they find difficult to match with their everyday life and the social conventions.
Their gradual reconciliation is then to occur in a dreamlike dimension: there Fridolin and Albertine can face their respective unconscious impulses and meet again rediscovering a tenderness able to dissolve those dynamics that were about to separate them.