The Children of Men, by PD James, depicts Theodore Faron’s journey to privately conceive the child that will be the future of the world. James has used nightmares to visit Theo twice in two different instances. This is to represent a range of emotions and the development in Theo’s life. Theo’s dad stands at Theo’s bedside, causing him to feel regretful and lonely. There are many factors that contribute to the nightmare. Theo has a second nightmare, which eventually passes away. However, after a series of events, Theo begins to feel troubled by the Five Fishes. The second nightmare symbolizes Theo’s many emotions. This nightmare also highlights Theo’s progress as it relates the changing nightmare. James’ deliberate selection of the timing of each nightmare is also revealed. Luke is looming over Theo in this instance, not his father. The initial nightmare is characterized by significant feelings of abasement. However, Theo experiences a second nightmare in which similar feelings are experienced in a different form. This allows you to see Theo’s character development and the crucial aspect of both nightmares timing.
James uses the first nightmare to represent Theo’s lackluster relationship with his father. Theo stated that he would prefer a happier recollection of his father. Theo is clearly depressed because he has no foundation on which to base his father-son relationship. This is particularly evident when Theo describes the nightmare. He claims that for months after his death, he would appear at my feet pointing at me with a bleeding yellow stump. Theo is often humiliated by the constant terror that strikes night after night. Theo feels lonely and isolated because of his father’s plea for help. Theo also feels guilty and regretful because of his father’s accusatory expression. Theo feels the weight of his father’s accusatory statement, which he can’t give. Theo endures nightly pain due to his inability or unwillingness to form a relationship with his father. Theo states, “After he murdered Natalie, I visited him weekly …” (27).” Theo can’t really be proud of his father’s relationship and has no basis for his proper qualities as a father. His journal entry from many years ago stated that Theo felt affection for Natalie even though it was not enough. He also wrote that “I still think of her as a complaint” (29). While Theo loved his child, he didn’t know how to be a father. Theo’s first nightmare became a constant companion in his sleep, just as his father died. Theo would again see his father making an appeal to him for something he couldn’t give …” (27). Theo was clearly still suffering from nightmares due to his inability to give his wife and daughter the life they loved. The worst part is that Theo was unable to give himself another chance at resolving a difficult situation. Theo’s feelings a humiliation as well as isolation after his death left him with the words of his father, “… very accusatory (27). Theo admits that the accident was his fault and the accusatory nature from the first nightmare haunts him. Theo is haunted by the guilt and regret of his father’s suicide, as well as the death of his daughter. Theo visits Oxford after returning from his long trip across Europe. The nightmare that James creates is a completely new one. He uses these terrors to show a change in Theo. Instead of Theo’s father sitting at his bedside, Luke is looking at him “…. He was actually sitting in his car, and the windows were shut. He could clearly hear Helena screaming. Rolf was present… pounding his fists on the car and shouting “You’ve killed Julian!” (139-140). Theo was clearly concerned by all of these events. Theo begins to understand who he really is, and how he will grow up. “Rolf was, for instance, there pounding on the car, shouting: You’ve murdered Julian !’…. He could not move. He sat still, waiting… for someone to grab him and confront him with his own horror. (139-140). After all he’s experienced, such the Quietus as well the Five Fishes conspiring against him, Theo finds himself overwhelmed by his ever-growing role within the group and his obsession with Julian. The new dream is not a singular entity, but a collection of fears. Theo’s fear about Julian’s safety, as well as perhaps his fear that he will not take action for something he is beginning to believe in, creates the new nightmare “…. (140) This is to show Theo’s growing sympathy for the group, their ideals, their plans, and willingness to take part in them. The second nightmare is where Theo starts to change and become a dynamic character. He transforms from a man who has little hope for his future to a man who can see the possibilities. James uses the second nightmare to symbolize something similar to the first, but in a slightly different way. Theo’s 2nd nightmare tells us that Theo was “… incontinent and unable to move. He is waiting for Theo to unlock …” the door. Theo, who had regretted his father’s death, recognizes that if he does not re-associate himself with the group because he was absent for so long, he won’t get another chance. Theo does NOT want his Five Fishes memories to include “… less information than reincarnation… one that is horror” (27). In reality, the symbols that are opposite of each other, such as the nightmares’ forms, represent the same symbolism. It is important to understand that the timing is what distinguishes the two nightmares. This variance is however complementary to the similar symbolism. James uses timing to enhance the narrative’s structure. The nightmare came about because Theo was filled with guilt after the death his father. Theo’s mistakenly killed Natalie, and then “Horror & guilt subsumed grievance” (29). Theo, on the other hand, was able to feel similar grief to the first nightmare without any catastrophe. This is clearly evident in Theo accidentally killing Natalie (139), as well as the symbolism contained in Theo getting trapped in a truck after killing Julian (139). Although the two nightmares are very similar, Theo’s first nightmare happened after his tragic daughter’s death. The second nightmare occurs before any tragedy involving the people featured in the nightmare. It could be that Theo is now with Miriam, the night she arrives, to prevent his nightmare from becoming a reality. James uses the similar symbolism and different timing of the nightmares to explain and justify Theo’s actions. As an integral part of The Children of Men, PD James uses nightmares in two different instances. The first nightmare takes place after Theo loses his father and after Natalie is accidentally killed. It uses a lot of symbolism to show where Theo is emotionally. The second nightmare, which occurs upon returning home from a long vacation after the first, displays symbolism in a different way. The second nightmare is subtler than the first and reveals Theo to be a dynamic character. Theo’s first nightmare is his root. Theo follows a completely different path to his second nightmare than he would if he had not been through it. Theo often experiences nightmares as a result of fears and anxiety. These make them an excellent tool to use symbolism as well as development and timing to support the narrative framework. You can sometimes forget about a nightmare, but for Theodore Faron, it has profound meaning. It can even dictate his daily life.