[Structure is Key / Rachelle Garza]

Maxine Chernoff wrote “The Interpretation of Dreams” to show that in a relationship the issues that cause problems can quickly become those which unite with just a small change in outlook. The piece starts out discussing a woman’s aspirations to be a circus performer and her husband’s obsession with collecting keys. It continues on to describe the dream the wife experiences one night while asleep. In her sleep-induced vision her husband plays the role of her performance partner in her circus act. The next weekend she surprises her husband by being ready to go for their weekly key-hunting that she normally did with distaste.

The way this story is structured was the first choice made by the author that jumped off of the pages at me. Structure determines the reader’s emotional reaction to the story. In the first paragraph Chernoff introduces us to the issues percolating in this character’s relationship with her husband. The author foreshadows clearly through the line, “These two interests had no significant connection to me, yet they were the sole cause of our marital strife.” We find out that any time her husband wants to share a newfound key with his wife she begins to fantasize about life under the big top.

In the second paragraph we are shown an act in the circus where the woman’s husband becomes her partner. In this performance the husband’s hobby becomes attractive to the wife when the audience shows their impression when a key is present.

The final paragraph describes the woman’s transformation. We see her invigorated by her new view of her husband. Like a typical male he brushes it off but she goes back to that dream every day to sustain her marriage. In the line, “Little does he know that I practice every day,” we are given everything we need to know about the direction their marriage is headed in. The wife has finally found the key to their marriage being happy.

This structure propels this story forward. If the story would have started in the wife’s dream without giving the background information in the first paragraph the reader wouldn’t have been able to grasp how meaningful the change the she endured was. The problems are laid out in the first paragraph, the resolution is conceived throughout the second, and in the final paragraph the issues are solved. As a reader you get the perfect rise and fall of action and conflict. The conclusion doesn’t feel concocted or forced, but feels honest and naturally produced. I don’t believe a different format would have done as much service to these piece as the one Chernoff landed on. I didn’t want dialogue between the two characters at any point. I get everything I need to understand these two characters and their story just by the description of the setting and the experiences of the main character.

Chernoff did an exceptional job showing the dynamics between a husband and wife in a way most people could relate too. The road paved by the author was particular and attention grabbing. The Interpretation of Dreams is a solid allegory for the typical experiences in a marriage driven home by the author’s genius use of structure.


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