Tag Archives: The Cage of Sand

the unconscious

“He disliked this failure of compassion, a nagging compulsion to expose other people’s motives…particularly as his own motives…were so suspect. Why was he there, what failure was he trying to expiate?” (Ballard 344)

“‘Mr. Quail…you possess a most interesting wish-fulfillment dream fantasy. Probably nothing such as you consciously entertain or suppose. This is commonly the way; I hope it won’t upset you too much to hear about it.'” (Dick 401)

I feel both Ballard and Dick seem to implicate that the mind is more than the conscious. The mind can hide from us truths we do not consciously comprehend, though these truths can be found in certain circumstances, such as deep introspection or a drugged almost-coma. By using this premise the author (sf author in this case) can utilize the man vs self conflict to drive the story or to create plot. The author can utilize this device to even impact the surety of the readers in their own minds and in the truths they take to be self evident (though I don’t believe this result seen from either Ballard’s or Dick’s stories; perhaps from Ellison’s though).

“. . . a most interesting wish-fulfillment dream fantasy.”

“The mysterious leg cramp was obviously psychogenic. Although unable to accept consciously the logic of Webster’s argument, he would willingly have conceded to the fait accompli of physical capture, gratefully submitted to a year’s quarantine at the Parasitological Cleansing Unit at Tampa, and then returned to his career as an architect, chastened but accepting his failure.” (352)

“Ironically, he had gotten exactly what he had asked Rekal, Incorporated for. Adventure, peril, Interplan police at work, a secret and dangerous trip to Mars in which his life was at stake—everything he had wanted as a false memory.” (399)

Both Ballard and Dick, in these passages, and Dick to a larger extent in “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, are exploring ideas about desire and wish fulfillment. In “The Cage of Sand” passage, we begin to get the sense that Bridgman is at a bit of an impasse. He has become a bit comfortable being where he is, but he does not want to move on, so he is in a state of limbo, which renders him a bit immobile in responding to situations in which his living arrangements could change. He doesn’t seem to know if he wants to stay inside the reservation or not, and the wardens and Webster’s message to him are forcing him to sort out his feelings sooner than he would like to. Quail has fallen into the “be careful what you wish for” trope, but he is also facing a crisis of desire. He got precisely what he wanted, but by doing that, the experience revealed to him that what he wanted wasn’t really what he wanted. He wanted the romance of going to Mars, of being a secret agent, not the nitty gritty drama of it.