Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Einstein's Dreams | 8 May 1905 | Summary



In this dream world the end is nigh: the exact date, known to all, is September 26, 1907. A year before the world ends schools close, since there is little point in investing in the future. A month before the world ends businesses close since people won't be needing things much longer. Everyone feels strangely liberated—a mother and daughter plan a spontaneous last-minute trip together. No one seems distraught over the impending end since everyone will experience it at the same time. In fact the day before the world ends people are lighthearted; they laugh, greet their neighbors, and swim in fountains. Some try to correct past mistakes by making amends. The minute before the world ends, everyone gathers in a circle to hold hands; no one speaks as the end approaches.


This dream world continues to investigate the themes of free will and consequence. In this world there will be no future consequences for people's actions because there will be no future. This bolsters everyone's sense of free will since it detaches their decisions from consequences. The decisions of the Dream Figures in this world show the ways in which this prior knowledge affects their present—they close schools and businesses and find a lightheartedness in knowing their days are numbered. Here, there is no "tomorrow"; everyone enjoys their present to the fullest. People's relationships with themselves and one another take on a different structure as well. The fact that they are silent in the final moment suggests a sense of peace and resignation at their fate rather than struggle or anxiety.

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