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The novel is set in Berne, Switzerland in the spring of 1905. Einstein is twenty-six years old, working on his theory of relativity in his extra time. The novels portrays Einstein’s dreams on physics, time and relativity. The year 1905 has been referred to as Einstein’s “miracle year”, for in that year he published four papers on physics that were to change the nature of scientific research and knowledge (ASU). The special theory of relativity was the subject of the third of these papers, published in June 1905(ASU). The title of the paper was “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” Einstein’s Dreams records the dreams of a genius between April 14 and June 28, 1905, as he develops his theory of time. Each dream envisions a distinct world, with time behaving in a distinct way. The connections between people and time are explored in the dreams explore
Birds symbolize time in Einstein’s Dreams. To gain time Figures chase after the birds to trap them, even though the birds will die soon after being trapped. The birds in the novel represent the ever changing nature of time and belief that one can control time. The persona compares time to a fleeting nightingale that the old constantly try to catch.
The Dream Figures symbolize humanity and the ways in which humans deal with the complex nature of time in their lives. Their aspirations, aversions, and uneasiness are depicted as individual struggles, but their stories all have components that everyone can relate to. The people who live in his dreams are not meant to be characters that the reader follows but but instead circumstances and examples that are meant demonstrates the ramifications of time inside of the dream worlds.
Time is a symbol of nature, and our inability to control it proves that nature is more powerful than humans. The novel shows time many forms: a river stream, linear, body time, mechanical, we must obey it because we cannot change it. Many of the dreams contemplate if people have free will if we cannot control the passage of time.
In a world where there exist two times – mechanical and body time – people seem to live in two different realities. “The first is as rigid and metallic as a massive pendulum of iron that swings back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The second squirms and wriggles like a bluefish in a bay. The first is unyielding, predetermined. The second makes up its mind as it goes along.” Lightman suggests that people can only choose one: “they can make a world in either time, but not in both times,” because otherwise they would live in two worlds concurrently, and that is unthinkable. Adopting this idea into our everyday life, it must be noted, people always want to make the most of their time and have both the mechanical and body time but that is impossible so we must make a decision and choose only one.
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