Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Tessa Hadley, Bad Dreams and Other Stories (2017)

Tessa Hadley’s short story collection Bad Dreams and Other Stories (2017) for the most part looks at ordinary life in a manner that bears evidence of a close observation of life and reflection on those observations.  She seems to write from what she has seen or experienced, and this gives her stories a degree of authenticity with which readers can identify.  In this sense, she writes about the internal lives of women because that is what she knows.  It also means that she writes about life in Britain during periods in which she has lived. 

Tessa Hadley seems to be particularly interested in the internal worlds of women, their thoughts and feelings.  This includes an exploration of the sexual subtext and webs of attraction that exist among people in social groups.  Much of this desire is confined to private thoughts but it impacts on the way people relate to each other, where they go and what they say and do. 

In this context, her short stories often present women as benefitting from giving expression to their secret wild side, exploring their fantasies and desires by stepping out of their limited or routine life experiences or away from a conservative belief system. 

Tessa Hadley’s short story collection is written in a manner that affirms values and attitudes drawn from the New Left and hippy counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s, or what could later be understood as the politically correct Left.  In this context, she is especially influenced by feminism, hence her focus on the internal lives of female characters, paying special attention to their expression of their sexuality and their predicament in a patriarchal society.  Her feminist perspective on the dilemmas facing women is particularly evident in her short stories set in the 1950s or early 1960s, before the cultural changes brought by the second wave of feminism of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It is also evident in her glorification of the suffragette movement.  Parallel to her celebration of the values of the politically correct Left is her negative representation of conservative values as narrow-minded, unjust, undesirable, and as noxious to living a fulfilling life.  

Tessa Hadley seems particularly interested in the existentialism adopted by the hippies, of ‘living for the moment’ rather than for the future, of breaking with what were, at that time, the dominant conservative norms, trying new things and seeking new experiences, including experiences with alcohol and illicit drugs.  Women in particular are presented as enriched by adventurous, risk-taking behaviour and spontaneous sexual experiences, however brief or limited they may be. 

In her short stories, the New Left radicals and hippies took risks and sometimes paid the ultimate price (succumbing to the drug culture) but their political and cultural rebellion is presented as creating a better society, establishing a legacy of progressive social change continued by later generations of tertiary-educated professionals who promote politically correct left-wing causes, like environmental campaigns to reduce climate change. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Bad Dreams meaning, Bad Dreams themes, Bad Dreams analysis, Bad Dreams notes