In the short story “I Sell My Dreams” Gabriel Marquez highlights the need of certain superstitious beliefs that human beings crave and depend on.
The Seaside tragedy
The story begins at Havana Riviera Hotel. The narrator was enjoying breakfast with his friends when some cars got hauled up by a crushing wave right in front of them. The wreckage flew in all directions, especially one car that crashed into the hotel wall.
The accident shook everyone causing great panic among the onlookers. Even the tourists in the hotel were thrown across the lobby with the furniture. Soon the fire department arrived and started clearing the debris and wreckage.
A Familiar Stranger
When the car that crashed into the hotel wall was airlifted by a crane, a woman’s body was retrieved from its ruins. She was killed instantly in the collision and was dressed in tattered clothes. Her identity was revealed as the housekeeper to the Portuguese Ambassador.
However, there was a familiar accessory with her that the narrator had seen before. It was a gold ring shaped like a snake. The reptile had emerald eyes.
A Blast From the Past
The ring kept on bothering the narrator. He had seen the same ring some 35 years ago on an exceptional woman that he met in Vienna. They met at a tavern where she was having her meal.
The narrator was captivated by her charm, immaculate dress and that splendid piece of jewelry. She was from Colombia and came to Austria when the war started. She spoke a bit of Spanish and was fond of music. The narrator was in awe of her.
An Unusual Woman
Both of them started spending time with each other. She never revealed her name to the narrator who called her Frau Frieda. When he asked her about what she does, she replied, “I sell my dreams. “
She was in her thirties and was the third of eleven siblings in old Caldas. Her family practiced the custom of telling dreams before breakfast something she wholeheartedly believed in. She believed herself to be an oracle of dreams, a clairvoyant of the future.
At seven years of age, she prophesized her 5-year brother would down. Her interpretation of this dream was that he should give up sweetmeats. Her mother believed her and tried to prevent him from consuming any candies but inevitably he died after swallowing some caramel.
A Supernatural Craft
Frau Frieda turned her skills as a psychic to earn a livelihood. She was hired by a woman in Vienna where she was given a salary, a room to stay and adequate meals every day. The host family asked her about their futures at breakfast every day.
Her predictions dictated all their actions and inactions. She became the authorial seal of the house. When the father in the family died, he even bequeathed a part of their estate to her in return for continued clairvoyant services for his surviving family.
A Message for the Narrator
One day Frieda visited the tavern and met with the narrator. She whispered to him that she had a dream about him the previous night. She advised him to leave Vienna straight away. The narrator convinced by her talents, left for Rome the same night. He had not gone back to Vienna since.
The Second Encounter
The narrator again met Freida in Barcelona. He was with Pablo Neruda (the famous poet who had returned to Spain after the Civil War) and his wife Matilde.
They were having a meal when Neruda noticed a woman, sitting very close to them, continuously staring at them. It was Frau Frieda. She was more plump and grey but still with the Egyptian snake ring with her.
She was on her way to Naples just like Neruda. The narrator invited her over and introduced her to his friend. When Neruda learned about her skills he rejected as inconceivable.
A Moment of Belief
Freida lived in Portugal and had sold her place in Austria. She told the narrator that he could go back to Vienna now if he desired. Neruda and the narrator both left her to have a rest and sleep.
Not even 10 minutes had passed when Neruda woke up from his dreams and exclaimed that he saw Frieda, the woman who dreams, in his dream. He added that he dreamed that she was dreaming about him. His wife grew anxious and asked the narrator to disclose the episode to Freida.
Now the time came for them to depart and the narrator met Frieda to say his goodbyes. She had a surprise for him. She said that she also took a nap before coming and had dreamed about Neruda.
The narrator was taken aback by her confession and could not believe her when she added that in her dream she saw Neruda dreaming about her.
The Burning Question
They went their separate ways and never saw each again until the fateful day of the accident. The ring on the dead woman’s finger revived the narrator’s memories of Frieda. He had to inquire about her with the Portuguese Ambassador, her last employer.
So at a diplomatic event, he met him and talked about her. The ambassador was enchanted with her powers and talents. The narrator asked him one last question, “what did she do for you?’” The answer was something he had expected and had heard from Freida herself, “She dreamed.”
‘I sell my dreams’ provides a sense of security to people in stress and difficulty to look out for some unexplainable and illogical causes and solutions. It makes them believe in something bigger and larger than mere physical sciences and encroaches into the metaphysical state of being.