dream-bitten

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dudasd

Senior Member
Serbo-Croatian
I'm afraid this one will require a small introduction, for this word's meaning seems to be inseparable from its context here. Toni Morrison is talking about "landlocked" people, who don't have a sea to recognize it as a way (and hope) of escaping. But people in the Great Lakes region (USA) do discover, in time, that they live near a different kind of border, and that discovery arouses their hopes:

"Once the people of the lake region discover this, the longing to leave becomes acute, and a break from the area, therefore, is necessarily dream-bitten, but necessary nonetheless." (Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon)

Thanks in advance for your explanations of the "dream-bitten" part! :)
 
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    No wonder this odd compound confuses you, dudasd. It also confuses me.

    I suppose it means that a break from the area is an unlikely thing - something that people achieve more often in dreams than in reality. That's just a guess, however.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I think that dream-bitten is formed on the pattern of flea-bitten, which has this double meaning:

    • 1 bitten by or infested with fleas.

    • 2 dilapidated or disreputable.

    When fleas bite you they make ugly red spots on you, and these spots itch and distract you -- but you have to scratch them.
    If I interpret dream-bitten as having a parallel meaning, the unrealistic dreams are distracting, but at the same time, they have to be acted on.

    This is just another guess. In the novel, what happens to the people who cross the border? Do they succeed in realizing their goals, or do they fail and run into trouble?
     

    dudasd

    Senior Member
    Serbo-Croatian
    It's just a short reflexive passage, an introduction into the main character's decision to leave his home place, not about the "people from the Lakes", but the point is similar to what you said, Cagey - that once they discover they can leave, it becomes an urgent, gnawing yearning, their dream, but even if it's just a dream, they have to make it real. Something like that. At least I think it's that. :) Toni Morrison is highly poetical and sometimes I find it hard to feel her nuances. So far I have a temporary version of this sentence - in rough translation back to English it would be: "...and (their) departure from the area, therefore, necessarily starts to infest their dreams, but it (the departure) remains necessary nonetheless." But I am not sure about this yet, and I wonder if it's close enough.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    ... in rough translation back to English it would be:

    "...and (their) departure from the area, therefore, necessarily starts to infest their dreams, but it (the departure) remains necessary nonetheless."
    I would say that they are 'infested with/by dreams of escape'; see Cagey's 1. above.
     

    dudasd

    Senior Member
    Serbo-Croatian
    That's possible as well, yes. The confusing part is that she says their "break is dream-bitten", not "them". :(
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    No, your #4 may be correct. a dream-bitten break = a break beset/adversely affected/infested by dreams [perhaps of a final escape rather than a break?]
     
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