For Criticism of Children’s Literature, Simmons College, Feb. 2012
What Dreams May Come:
How One Dream Fulfills the Oedipal Complex in Francisco Jiménez’s
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
In “Miracle in Tent City,” Francisco’s baby brother, Torito, becomes sick with a possibly fatal illness. The family gathers in front of an image of the Santo Niño de Atocha, to whom Mamá always prays when the children are ill: “The Holy Child Jesus [takes] care of poor and sick people, especially children” (Jiménez 34).
After praying to the Niño, Francisco dreams that the image comes to life. The Holy Child gives Francisco a basket containing white butterflies. The butterflies transform into a pair of wings and take Francisco to an alfalfa field where Torito is waiting. Francisco awakens from this dream within a dream to find his little brother has taken the Niño’s place on the prayer card.
A literal translation of the dream reveals Francisco’s wish that Torito get well and come home. Francisco’s remembering and relating the dream’s manifest content inspires Mamá to sew a blue cloak for Torito, believing the cloak will make him well again.
According to Freud, dreams consist of two levels. The first level is referred to as manifest content, and the second, latent content. It is this second level that holds the true meaning of the dream—the wish fulfillment. The basket, the butterflies, the wings, and the alfalfa field all point us to the dream as fulfillment of Francisco’s Oedipal Complex.
The basket is a vessel, a domestic tool connected to mothering and housework. Pregnant mothers are vessels that carry and nourish new life. As a result, the basket symbolizes Francisco’s wish to remain unseparated from his mother and home. The butterflies represent Francisco’s father’s soul, melding into wings in order to take Francisco to “my Torito” (34). It is interesting that Francisco sees the baby as “my,” suggesting he wishes to stay with Mamá as her husband and father of her child, whom he has rescued.
Papá, in the form of the butterflies, gives Francisco power and permission to oust him as patriarch. Francisco finds the baby in an alfalfa field. Here, alfalfa is a symbol of abundance: it is “lush” and “green” (34), indicating growth and fertility as well as the life-giving forces of mother and father. Alfalfa is also edible, therefore it is life-sustaining, just as the mother nurtures life.
Francisco’s flight reveals his wish to help his family rise above picking crops and struggling to get food on the table; this is something he can do only as husband and father—as decision-maker and head of the family.
Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. A.A. Brill. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1994. Print.
Jiménez, Francisco. The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.