By Kavita Kumari
In Alan Lightman’s novel entitled Einstein’s Dreams, Albert Einstein dreams multiple stories while working on his theory of relativity. Throughout the novel, Einstein imagines possible worlds that center on time and how people interact with each other.
While reading the novel, there does not seem to be a main character. Lightman refers to people in Einstein’s dreams without using names. Instead, he refers to them using terms like “the man,” “the shopkeeper,” “the woman,” or “the children.” This detail is interesting because Einstein could be dreaming either the same or different people in different worlds. He focuses on how these people interact with each other in different times. In a sense, each person can be considered a main character. As he says, “For, miraculously, a barrister, a nurse, a baker can make a world in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same” (Lightman 21).
Throughout the novel, Einstein comments on how people live their lives. As he states, “If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly” (Lightman 36). Time does not seem to change at all; rather, people are the ones who change in response to time. Some people set goals for themselves, and other people do not look forward to anything. Einstein also points out that people suffer in their lives. No matter the time in the world, people experience similar events and emotions.
In the epilogue, the reader returns to the beginning of the novel, and Einstein finishes his paper on the theory of relativity. It’s interesting that the reader returns to where the novel starts because it suggests that time has passed from when Einstein enters the office to when he hands in his paper. The reader passes stories dating many months before returning to the beginning. Also, the ending suggests that time also influences Einstein. After giving his paper to the typist at “six minutes past eight,” Einstein “feels empty” (Lightman 140).
In Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman centers the novel on the concept of time. From the moment Einstein enters his office, the months of his dreams, and the dreams themselves to the end of the novel, time constantly influences people and how they live their lives.