Train Dreams Paper

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Train Dreams Essay
Imagine watching your home blazing with fire. Your wife and daughter are in it—and it’s your fault. This happened to Robert Grainier in Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. Train Dreams is about the life of an American day laborer, Grainier, in the early 20th century. Throughout much of his life he believes he is doomed by a curse. A curse that he thinks caused the death of his family. The novella shows the great changes he goes through and how the curse has had an impact. Through the decisions Robert makes, the author shows how fear and guilt have had a huge role in Grainier’s life.

Train Dreams shows how Grainier’s life is controlled by his fears. Because his wife and daughter were killed after he was “cursed” (8), he decides to never marry again. He also chooses to live away from other people and to have no personal relationships. “‘I don’t believe I am a hermit,’ Grainier replied, but when the day was over, he went off asking himself, Am I a hermit? Is this what a hermit is?”(95) He is afraid of what would happen if he does get close to someone. The fear has so much affected him that he doesn’t even realize how lonely he really is. If he remarried or became close friends with someone the curse could affect his new wife and kill her, and a possible second child, too. Fear controlled him and made him miss out on love. It set the course for the rest of his lonely life. By deciding to live alone, and to not remarry, we see the controlling power of fear.

Guilt has also strongly influenced Grainier’s life. “Walking home in the falling dark, Grainier almost met the Chinaman everywhere. Chinaman in the road. Chinaman in the woods. Chinaman walking softly, dangling his hands on arms like ropes…” (7). Earlier that day at work, Grainier and a group of workers tried to kill a Chinese man. On the way home Grainier started seeing him everywhere, feeling guilty for what he did. But what changed his life a lot was when he believed the curse was the cause...
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