Queen of Sleep

Living with narcolepsy: a personal journey

The Reckless Sleeper/ Le Dormeur téméraire

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The Reckless Sleeper / Rene MagritteLast Tuesday, I went with a friend to Tate Modern. At the moment they have a Surrealist exhibition on and on the wall hangs The Reckless Sleeper surrounded by Piacabia and Salvador Dali. The title and the objects below the sleeping figure attracted me to the painting. The painting is from 1928 and is oil on canvas. Size: 1160 x 810 x 20 mm
The official Tate description reads: A figure sleeps in a wooden alcove above a dark cloudy sky. The way into this space is barred by a tablet embedded with everyday objects, which are displayed as in a children’s book. These objects are presented as if dreamed by the sleeper. As Magritte knew, some or all of them could also be read as Freudian symbols. This combination of different possible interpretations adds to the painting’s suggestion of unease and disorientation. It was painted when Magritte was closest to the French Surrealist group, having moved temporarily to Paris from Brussels.

What do the (Freudian) symbols mean?

Hats: Freud (1994) had several sample dreams in which hats represented genitalia.

Apple: This simple and basic fruit is a powerful symbol in religious writings, literature and in dreams. It fundamentally represents knowledge and the freedom that is associated with it. With knowledge and freedom we are in a position to make positive or negative choices. The apple should be interpreted with the consideration of all the other details in the dream. Is the apple a symbol of positive movement and spiritual and emotional liberation, or is it a symbol of runaway passions and the resulting negativity? Are you giving into temptation and making hurtful choices or are being wise and enjoying the fullness of life?

Candle: A lighted candle symbolises enlightenment, awareness or search for truth. A burning candle symbolises getting old or a fear of dying. Seeing a candle blow out in your dream indicates that you are surrendering a significant aspect of yourself. For Freud this would be the penis.

Mirror: Mirrors symbolize the imagination and a link between the conscious and unconscious.

Bird: According to Freud birds are sexual symbols that represent the male penis.

Bowtie: Chuck Palahuik connects the presence of a bowtie to the elimination of the male organ in his book Subliminal Seduction. “[Bowties] conjure up images of smoky men’s clubs and owlish antiquarians, of something faintly dainty,” writes Christopher Stump in “Confessions of a Bow-Tie Devotee,” a 1997 Weekly Standard article that has become the central text for bowtie support groups everywhere. Until the 1960s, Cambridge University maintained a tradition of “ceremonial public castration” for students found not wearing a gown and bowtie on special occasions. “I work at a dating table and often am leaning over a cup of coffee,” writes a correspondent to Alfredo Blasco’s bowtie page. “Before I started wearing bow ties, I was constantly dipping my long tie in my cup.” Shrinks given to oddball theories recount fever dreams associating emasculation with Eaton uniforms. Doctors of Philosophy plumb a psychology where tying a knot and being neutered are never far apart, while amateur psychologists see the chin-ticklin’ bow as a symbol of “inoffensive non-masculinity.”

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream by night.”
Edgar Allan Poe
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Written by Queen of Sleep

May 2, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] expanding my search I found an interesting interpretation of the symbolism utilising the wondrous and generally perverted medium of Freud.  That brings […]


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