Know Before You Judge Foreshadowing is to show or indicate beforehand. Most authors use foreshadowing as a tool to let the reader see what is going to happen in the future. Often times, readers take foreshadowing for granted, taking the tiny hints left by authors as actual indications of what’s to come. Authors like D. M. Thomas, use this implied notion to catch their readers off guard and evoke emotion with the unexpected. Adding fiction to history, Thomas does this perfectly in his novel The White Hotel.
After several years of pain in her breast and ovary, main character Lisa Erdman seeks the help of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Early on in the story, incredibly unique images like breast, the crucifix, and luggage portray Lisa, who is called Anna in the first the chapters of the book, as psychotic sexually driven woman. The reader sees a one dimensional girl at first. As the images develop, the reader begins to see that Lisa is more than her disturbing dreams lead her on to be. In his book The White Hotel, author D. M.
Thomas flawlessly incorporates and connects the images and themes of sex, religion, and disturbing predictions, to foreshadow and progressively leave hints to his reader. These hints unveil the complexity of Lisa and prove that human life is more than a title like “Jew”, but a beautiful complex system in which everyone is worthy of living a life unrestricted by simple minded thinking. To begin, the image of breasts continually appears throughout the first part of the novel. Thomas leads the reader on to believe that Anna’s disturbing dreams and hallucinations are a sign of sexual addiction and immaturity.
When her “breast where bursting,” Anna found herself sharing her milk with more than just her lover (23). Anna is willing to let anyone and everyone take advantage of her unusually full and sensitive breasts. The reader is caught off guard by the vulgar language and care free willingness to let anyone touch, suck, and drink from what society sees as a woman’s private parts. As assumptions continue to grow of Anna’s motives, Thomas gives a little history about Anna’s childhood. Anna’s loving mother was killed in a “fire that had destroyed the hotel” she was staying in (93).
This traumatic event led to her father living in his work and left Anna alone and miserable. While her past does not reveal Anna’s sexual promiscuity, the reader already begins to feel sympathetic towards Anna. The reader catches a glimpse that there is more behind Anna’s sexual dreams when she laments to Freud that she dreamed one of her “breast was sheared away” by falling ice (21). This scene is key because it shows that Anna has more than just sexual emotions. As the novel moves into reality, the reader sees that Lisa, Anna in the dreams, is afraid of pregnancy.
When two of her friends, both with children, die from cancer, Lisa begins to have “pains in her breast and pelvic region” (176). The breast appears again but with a new tone. Lisa is afraid that if she has children something will happen to her and they will be left alone, just like she was as a child. In the final chapters of the book, Lisa gets married and gains a step-son in the process. As the book ends Lisa’s greatest fear of losing her child happens as she witnesses her young son Koya murdered. Thomas uses these complex emotions to show convict his reader of assuming Lisa’s motives without knowing her background.
Exploiting her tendency to lie and a key image in developing Anna’s (Lisa) struggle with religion, the crucifix is another example of Thomas misleading his reader and teaching another lesson. While taking Anna through therapy, Freud realized that “she was unreliable and evasive” (100). Thomas points this out to the reader lead the reader to believe that Anna’s character is not trustworthy and adds to her immaturity. While she does continually hide things it seems that there is more behind her than just a simple life. The reader learns that when “she fumbled with a crucifix at her throat,” Anna is lying.
The crucifix traditionally symbolizes Christ suffering in the Catholic faith. Every time she touches the one around her throat, the reader can assume that there is something deeper going on inside Anna’s mind. In her first sessions with Freud, Anna spoke of a time when she ventured down to her father’s docks as a child. Anna told Freud that she was “threatened and insulted by a group of insurgents” and her father instead of consoling her “coldly rebuked her” for putting herself in danger (94). Anna spoke coldly about her father as if there was more to the story.
In a letter to Freud later in her life, Lisa explains to Freud that the sailors forced her to “commit acts of oral sex with them” because she was Jewish. Revealing more about her sexual history and problems, Thomas shows the reader that not only was she embarrassed to tell Freud the truth, but also her struggle with her religious background started at a very young age. She is not able to understand how being Jewish made her life so much different than the sailors. Her struggle with her religious identity in the early parts of the ook, foreshadow the suffering she will face later when she has to choose a religion in the face of death. The image of the crucifix gives the reader a strong base to begin understanding just how complex Lisa really is. Continuing to struggle with her religious identity and her past Lisa opens up more understanding about who she truly is, when she encounters pictures of the Shroud of Truin and the paining “Last Supper”. After seeing Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, Lisa felt oppressed thinking the painting “was too symmetrical” and unrealistic because “people did not eat meals like that” (165).
Her questioning of the painting shows her knowledge of how hard religious identity really is. She did not have full faith in either religion her parents raised her by. Issues of sex are a constant burden to Lisa’s mind, and she was disturbed by “the foolish thought that if Christ’s hands had not been placed so tactfully” in the Shroud of Turin “the church would not have been able to display His image” (169). Lisa’s mind tracks back to sex and how the church is so against it outside of marriage. Lisa realizes that her sexual past doesn’t fit any religion and is completely lost.
When she finally decides to accept her Jewish background in order to be with her step-son, Lisa is killed for it. Thomas wants his reader to see that religious identity is a hard and complex concept that every human struggles with. Lisa is no exception, and the Jewish faith is not one of simplicity. This scene develops entirely the complex issues going on in Lisa’s mind. Another image that can be traced throughout the book and develops Lisa as an individual is luggage. In one of her hallucinations, the author describes a long train ride full of many sexual quests with a mysterious man in which Anna leaves her luggage on the train.
When the two are the white hotel, Anna tears her dress and expresses to the man that she wishes she had her suitcase with her. Surprisingly Anna admits that she wouldn’t mind “if I (she) only had her toothbrush” (77). Anna’s remarkably small need for material values and desire for a toothbrush adds to the fact that she is a human being. Cleanliness is a normal human desire that everyone deserves. Many of the contents in her suitcase were all material value but many of them made her human and gave her identity as an individual. Thomas uses this scene to foreshadow the loss of Lisa’s identity later in the book.
When Kolya and Lisa are forced to leave their home by the Germans, the two “squashed” what they had left of their possessions into a suitcase Lisa had bought “with some of the money her father had given her for her seventeenth birthday” (227). The contents of this case are much different than the ones Lisa had in her dreams. They put meaningful things that made and represented who they were. Completing the foreshadowing, Lisa and Koyla have their possessions “snatched up” by an “old woman in a dirty headscarf” while they were making their way through the crowded streets (230).
This time the loss of her luggage symbolized more than her humanity, it symbolized the loss of Lisa’s identity completely. The luggage meant so much to Lisa and her son and now they were left with nothing. Thomas uses the luggage to show that humanity is common throughout all races and genders. In his novel the White Hotel, D. M. Thomas uses vulgar language, brilliant imagery, and controversial themes to catch his reader in a common human mistake, judgment. No human being is as simple as a title or a stereotype, like many readers might have assumed about Lisa in the beginning.
Rather than assuming that Lisa’s hallucinations and dreams are direct translations of who she is, readers learn to understand that they are a part of something more. Lisa is more than the piece of meat that the Germans, the men, and even her own thoughts treated her as. Human beings aren’t created to be one sided, yet complex and beautiful. This novel uses fiction to teach its reader by incorporating the tragic reality of the holocaust. Works Cited Thomas, D. M. The White Hotel. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 1981. 1-274. Print.