Dr. Audlin is a highly successful psychoanalyst. His patient, Lord Mountdrago, is a leading member of the House of Lords and Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the British government. Mountdrago consults Audlin because of nightly vivid and threatening dreams, all of which concern Owen Griffiths, a member of the opposition in the House of Commons. Griffiths is a small, unimpressive commoner from a constituency in Wales. As Griffiths becomes progressively more the focus of his dreams, Mountdrago cannot imagine why, since to him the man is insignificant vermin.

Audlin presses his patient if there is any reason why Griffiths might actually be hostile toward the Lord, or that he (Mountdrago) might feel guilt regarding Griffiths. Eventually Mountdrago is forced to admit that on one occasion when Griffiths made a speech proposing a change in foreign policy, Mountdrago crushed him. Using his very considerable oratorical skill, Mountdrago tore Griffiths apart and held him up to ridicule. This, in turn, ruined Griffiths' career. Mountdrago hadn't initially thought of the affair since Griffiths was beneath contempt and deserved to be crushed; as such, he had no reason to hold a grudge against Mountdrago.

The psychoanalyst suggests that the only way Mountdrago can free himself from the dreams is to apologize to Griffiths. Mountdrago angrily rejects this, but then goes out and commits suicide. In the end we learn that Owen Griffiths dies the same night, presumably by suicide.


One rather obvious way of looking at this story is its depiction of privilege and social class in early 20th century Britain. Lord Mountdrago cannot conceive that Owen Griffiths (a common Welshman, after all) has values and feelings. The best way of describing his avowed attitude is a complete lack of empathy, much like the unbridgeable gap between human and frog. Likewise, Mountdrago's initial absolute assurance that the doctor will do what Mountdrago wants.

Another analysis might deal with the series of dreams described. They provide a lot of material, and their recurrent contact with reality--Griffiths often performs some action in real life that accords with something he did in the previous night's dream--raise a few issues of the paranormal that transcend Freudian analysis.

From a medical perspective, Dr. Audlin's professional skills are impressive, as we view the technique he employs to tame the arrogant beast. He is a master at setting limits, active listening, the use of silence, and empathic responding. He modulates his voice and gestures to induce trust and convey reassurance. He carries Mountdrago a long way toward self-discovery, but in the long run not far enough.

Primary Source

Collected Stories


Everyman's Library

Place Published

New York



Page Count