Throughout history, rulers and conquerors alike have given all they have to give for one reward: power. Once the necessities of life have all been attained, there is little left to vie and compete for, aside from influence over others in one manner or another. Many successful humans inevitably find themselves scheming rebellions, groveling for power, killing others, and destroying previous ties. They do this in hopes of greater power, regardless of the odds of success or their ability to handle it. In The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin utilizes a mixture of allusions, allegory, and symbolism to depict the effect that power has on mere humans.
Le Guin places innumerable allusions in her story, many of which refer to the same topics. She mentions other literary and artistic works, Taoist sources, and even some pop culture in order to augment overarching themes. The most notable sources of these references are the direct quotes she places at the beginning of each chapter to set the tone and foreshadow coming events. In chapter four, Le Guin chooses to pull from H.G. Wells’ A Modern Utopia to portray perfection as “the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being.” (Le Guin 41). Perfection is not really achievable by humans, but is nevertheless constantly sought after. To Dr. Haber and those like him, the only perfection is absolute power, an end which justifies any means. When George visits Lelache for the first time seeking legal counsel, he says that he has only agreed to psychiatric treatment so he “doesn’t get prosecuted.” (Le Guin 42). Thomas Paine often illustrated his thoughts on the same kind of problematic situation, obeying and acting according to what will cause the least legal resistance. This principle can also be found in Taoism, which states that this is not a lifestyle fit for anyone, despite its incessant popularity. Orr follows along with his recommended plan of action out of fear, a common tactic used by powerful people in order to maintain their power. These allusions allow the reader to relate to other sources and emphasize the shared meaning between the source and the novel.
In addition, Le Guin also relates pieces of her story to larger meanings through allegory. These certain parts of the story, while they may change externally,continue to mean the same thing throughout. A prime example can be found in Mount Hood, which constantly changes in form every time George dreams a reality-changing effective dream. Dr. Haber has a “big photographic mural” of it on his windowless walls, which he continuously alters, often to things completely different than the mountain (a horse, for example) (Le Guin 6). The mountain helps the reader to understand the scope of George’s power by acting as an indicator for just how much his dreams change the world. Eventually, Haber gives himself a view of the mountain through a nice glass window, and it wakes up as a volcano...