Our assignment was to read the final two issues from The Doll’s House: Into the Night and Lost Hearts. Mike Schilling does the honors this week.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
We have now arrived at the last two installments of The Doll’s House, which complete the story and tie up a number of loose ends, though perhaps not all of them. Both are very plot-driven, and seem to me to lack the unity of the previous issues, especially the last two, but they provide some nice moments along the way. Here we go:
Into the Night
Rose is back at Hal’s house. Jed is the the hospital, comatose, with no assurance he will ever wake up. Rose’s grandmother Unity has suffered a stroke, which troubles Rose both because of the prospect of losing a grandmother she has just found, and because it prevents Rose’s mother from coming to help with Jed. Rose’s housemates are sympathetic, each in their own way: Hal motherly, Barbie and Ken superficial, Chantal and Zelda weird. (Gilbert is absent, for the moment.)
Rose is too stressed to sleep, but the rest of the hose is dreaming, each in their own way:
Ken dreams of sex, money, and power. Barbie dreams of being the hero of a fantasy quest. It’s kind of sweet to see the real Barbie behind the phony perkiness, but the faux-Tolkien cheesiness of her dream is fairly biting satire. Chantal is lost in words and powerless to control them. Zelda dreams of a horrible childhood from which she needs Chantal to rescue her. Hal dreams of his idols Marilyn, Judy, and Bette, and the mystery behind them. (Judy Garland begins as Dorothy, removes her mask to become the wicked witch, and removes that mask to become .. I’m not sure. The wizard, perhaps?)
Rose still can’t sleep, troubled by Jed’s condition, Unity’s illness, her close call at the convention, and her vague recollection of meeting Dream. The only one who might be able to comfort her is Gilbert. Where is he? He’s at the hospital, watching over Jed. Next we see Dream and Matthew the Raven adding some suspense. (Matthew used to be a man, so I’m guessing he’s yet another comic book character. I don’t know. There’s also probably a pun here on Matthew Corvnius, a 15th-century king of Hungary.) Rose is a vortex who threatens the dreaming just as previous vortexes have, but is somehow different. How will this all turn out? Stay tuned.
The housemates continue to dream:
Ken is now focused on sex. Barbie’s quest is becoming perilous, seemingly because she’s becoming aware of Ken’s obsessions. Chantal’s thoughts are caught in a recursive loop. Zelda, apparently aware of Chantal’s problems, begins to tell her a story. Hal dreams of an lost love.
Rose is now aware of all of these dreams and continues to break down toe walls between them. Not stopping there, she begins to knit together the dreams of the entire city, until Dream suddenly brings it to a halt, telling her who he is and that she’s caused a great deal of damage that he needs to repair. Ken and Barbie are driven apart by learning who the other one really is, while Chantal and Zelda are brought closer together.
Back in England, things aren’t easy for Miranda (Rose’s mother) either, with a dying mother and a son who may never recover. Her one consolation is that Rose is OK. Though, since Dream has taken her away, “OK” may not be strictly accurate. Matthew, at Dream’s request, comes to Jed’s room at the hospital, where we find out that while Matthew is a dream who was once a man, Gilbert is a man who was once a dream. (Gilbert also quotes from Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta: “But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead” . As you might recall, we met Marlowe a few issues ago, talking to the would-be playwright Shakespeare.) Matthew tells Gilbert that Rose is a vortex, and Gilbert tells Matthew that part of Dream’s job is to kill vortexes. And on that portentous note, this issue ends.
Rose is now in the Dreaming, where Dream informs here that she’s a vortex and thus he needs to kill her. She’s very angry and upset at first, but then realizes that, since it’s all a dream, she’ll wake up and be fine. Dream further informs here that that’s not true. She never will wake up. He’s sorry about that. In fact, he apologizes to her over and over, another sign that he is no longer the arrogant, disdainful spirit we had come to know.
Now we visit Matthew and Gilbert, who have traveled to the Dreaming together. Gilbert reveals that he is the fourth missing member of the Major Arcana, Fiddler’s Green, which is a place, not a person. (Fiddler’s Green is an old legend of an afterlife of perpetual joy, enlivened by unending music and dancing.)
Back to Rose and Dream, who explains that a vortex ‘s power to break down the barrier of dreams is a danger that can destroy worlds, which is why she needs to die. He apologizes some more. Gilbert arrives and offers to die in Rose’s place. That won’t work, unfortunately. Now to England where Unity , close to death, finally recalls the stranger who impregnated her, and begins to dream. Back to the Dreaming, where everyone is doing what they can for Rose: Gilbert expresses his love for her, Matthew tells her that death isn’t so bad, Dream feels so sad for her that he forgives Gilbert for deserting him. But even so, Dream is ready to kill her …
When another visitor arrives: a young, beautiful Unity, who informs Dream that she would have been the vortex had Dream not been imprisoned. If that confuses you, it’s OK, it confuses Dream too, to which Unity responds:
“You’re obviously not very bright, but I shouldn’t let it bother you.”
And, yes, Dream does let himself be spoken to that way. Unity asks Rose to give her her heart, which she can do because they’re both dreaming, after all. (The heart looks very much like the glass shard that the young tribesman found in the prologue.) This makes Unity into the vortex. Now she dies, ending the threat to the Dreaming and allowing Rose to live. Dream promises to heal Jed, and Rose wakes up.
We see Rose after six months back in the waking world with her family. She has a letter from Hal, detailing the changes the roommates have undergone after the night of the shared dreams: Hal seems to have found a lover, Barbie and Ken broke up (Ken has found another Barbie), Zelda is now speaking. Rose has become a recluse, barely leaving her room, still in shock from all the horror: even more horror than we knew, since before we met Rose, her best friend had been killed in the diner massacre. Even more than that, Rose is paralyzed by what she’s learned: that the world isn’t real, that people are just dolls in a dollhouse. And she hasn’t slept in six months because she’s afraid to dream.
Enough! Rose chooses to believe that her weird dream was just that: a weird dream. She cuts her hair, washes out the dye, and returns to the land of the living, looking remarkably like the young Unity. She shares a normal moment with her family, and then she and Jed run off to spend some time outside in nature. The end of Rose’s story is “And then she woke up.”
But Dream’s story isn’t quite done. He goes to confront Desire (holding her sigil, which is yet another heart.) He confronts her, accusing her of manipulating things so that he would kill a relative (he’s clearly aware that Desire is Rose’s grandfather.) This would be very bad, though we’re not told why. He then lectures her that humans are not the Endless’s dolls, but the other way around: it’s for humans to control them. (This is a very different Dream than we’ve seen before.) Since she seems unimpressed by that, he leaves her with a simple threat about what he’ll do if he catches her interfering again. Desire, being shallow and silly, draws only one conclusion from all of this: I really pissed him off that time! This pleases her immensely.