Forming a Mental Image or Concept

The comparison between what individuals see as reality and imagination is displayed throughout many fictional texts and even philosophical readings. Imagined, or imagination is compositely defined as “forming a mental image or concept of.”  It is also defined as producing images of previously experienced qualities. The word “reality” is merely defined as “the state or quality of being real”. In other words, it means, what is real and is not imagined. It is crystal clear that imagination and reality are the complete opposite of each other.

In The South and The Night Face Up, the use of opposites by the authors, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, shows that what appears to be isn’t necessarily true. In The South by Jorge Luis Borges, main character Juan, blurs the line between two worlds, his imagination mixes into his reality, while in The Night Face Up by Julio Cortazar, the character creates a mindset or dream, by separating his dreams from his reality.

In Meditations On First Philosophy by René Descartes, Descartes creates a dualistic mindset by separating his imagination from his reality Sometimes reality can be DISAPPOINTING something totally different, but how can we know for sure? The South is a short story written in 1953 by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. In the short story, the main character, Juan Dahlmann, a librarian, discovers the book of the Arabian Nights and takes it home to read. Of much excitement to examine the book, he rushes up the stairs and gashes his forehead against a recently painted beam.

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They take him to a sanitorium and recovers. The story then shifts locations to a train station, where Juan is waiting for a train to travel to his ranch. On the train, he is told that he will not be stopping at the regular stop but at a previous station.

When he gets to the destination, he finds a restaurant in which he enters to sit down and read Arabian Nights. Three ranch workers appear to bother Juan by throwing pieces of bread at him, he ignores it but soon after, gets up to confront them. The shopkeeper, calling Juan by his name, asks him to ignore them, but instead Juan does the opposite. The shopkeeper then tells Juan that he doesn’t have a weapon to defend himself. The gaucho, who is also in the restaurant gives a knife to Juan and the three ranch workers and Juan go outside to settle it. It is strange that the shopkeeper knows Juan’s name. Juan has never traveled to the ranch as mentioned in the short story. Is Juan hallucinating these events? What is the reality and what is he imagining? The stories of Jorge Luis Borges can be seen as a type of labyrinth, especially The South.

The South contains various scenes that can be a bit mind boggling. It can be a bit difficult to label what is real and what is imagined, especially in Juan’s point of view. The short story seems to be going in an orderly fashion up until the moment he “leaves” the hospital. Does Juan actually ever leave the sanitorium? The story tells us that, “his usual physician appeared with a new man, and they drove Dahlmann to a sanatorium on Calle Ecuador: he needed to have an X ray.”  The story then goes on to tell us that, “…the surgeon told him he’d been on the verge of death from septicemia…The next day, the surgeon told him he was coming right along, and that he’d soon be able to go out the country house to convalesce” The same cab that drove him to the sanitorium was the same cab that took him to the train station. This has to be connected in a way. When he arrives to the restaurant, the shopkeeper knows Juan’s name. How is this possible? Did the shopkeeper know Juan or maybe it was a lucky guess?

The most probable outcome of this eye-opening event is that what is actually happening, is a reality in which Juan is imagining but he doesn’t know he’s still in the sanitorium. We have to remember that the first second he got to the sanitorium, they strapped him up, “the moment they arrived, his clothes were stripped from him, his head was shaved, he was strapped with metal bands to a table, he was blinded and dizzied with bright lights, his heart and lungs were listened to, and a man in a surgical mask stuck a needle in his arm” From this, I conclude that Juan’s imagination is taking over his reality to ease the pain. In his imagination he gets the death he always wanted, and the reason the shopkeeper knows his name is because it was actually one of the surgeon’s talking to him. Sometimes we are in a reality that we don’t want, especially when we’re in physical pain. I myself have imagined what it would it be like to live in a world that I imagined.

The Night Face Up is a short story written by French-Argentine author Julio Cortazar. This short story is a juxtaposition of a reality and a dream. The story never mentions the protagonists name. The story begins with the protagonist being involved in a motorcycle accident. He is hospitalized and soon sleeps after the surgery. In his sleep he dreams that he is running away from the Aztecs in a ritual war and that he has no other choice but to stay on the trail of which is only known to the Motecas. After this first dream, he wakes up feeling thirsty, he also realizes that his arm is in a cast. Once again, he sleeps, this time in his dream, he is not on the Moteca trail. In this dream he grabs his amulet and prays but is captured. Once again waking up in the hospital, he thinks about the events of his accident and what had happened next but couldn’t seem to remember.

While thinking of it he dozes off once again to dream that he is tied up in ropes. At that time his amulet is gone and knows that he will be sacrificed. Finally waking up, for the last time, his reality quickly combines with the dream. He realizes that he isn’t going to awake when he sees the priest coming toward him with a knife. He realizes that he is awake, and that the time he was at the hospital was only actually a dream. Things can get lost into translation, this story is an example of exactly that. The Night Face Up also contains a variety of scenes in which are particularly intriguing. It is rather difficult to identify which reality is the dream and which is imagined. Every dream that the protagonist has is described vividly. Sometimes when we dream, it can feel so real.

When he was dreaming, he could smell. I have never had the experience of smelling in my dream. “It was a curious dream because it was full of smells and he never dreamed smells. First the smell of a swamp, since at the right of the road lay a marsh, quagmires from which no one ever returned. But the smell stopped, and in its place came a dark and complex fragrance like the night, through which he was fleeing the Aztecs.” What has to be realized is that what he is dreaming is the real reality that he is in, he is actually smelling that smell; the hospital is something he dreams about when he suddenly faints in the actual real world. For example, Carl Jung’s theory states that, “dreams allow individuals to understand and express their true feelings and offer solutions to problems that exists in the person’s waking life”. This is exactly what the protagonist is doing. He dreams about the hospital because it is almost like a sanctuary for him in which he feels safe and comfortable rather than the Aztec “dream”.

“He passed with a jump back to the night of the hospital, to the sweet high ceiling, to the soft darkness that surrounded him.”  In the hospital he is able to leave the idea behind of which he will most likely die. So he creates this world where he’ll most likely recover. He describes the hospital as being “sweet” and “soft”. This gives the reader an indication that the hospital isnt the reality but a mere dream or his imagination. Another scene pertaining to showing what appears to be real but isnt is when he dreams for the last time. “With one last hope he parted his eyelids, groaning to wake up. For a second he thought he had achieved it, because once again he was immobile in his bed, safe from the swinging with his head propped up. But it smelled of death, and when he opened his eyes he saw the bloody figure of the high priest that came toward him with a stone knife in his hand.

He was able to shut his eyelids once more, but now he know that he would not wake, that he was awake, that the marvelous dream had been the other, absurd like all dreams; a dream in which he had ridden the strange avenues of an astonishing city…” Reality can often be disappointing, especially in this case. This information was gathered from Both of these short stories showcase the question of reality. They both deliver the essence of questioning our reality. For example, in The South, towards the end, it is known to the reader that the shopkeeper apparently knows Juan’s name. In The Night Face Up, the protagonist doesn’t really realize that the whole time he was in the hospital he was dreaming of being in the hospital rather than dreaming of the Aztecs. We see that in the night face up, that the dream contrasts the reality. Both of these characters imagine a reality in which they choose what they want in order to forget about what is actually happening in reality.

They both display that reality is disappointing which is why they imagine the place in which there is no pain, and where they get things their own way. In the night face up, the dream is actually when he is in the hospital. The reason he could smell was because he was actually with the Aztecs and the hospital was something he had dreamt up and made it a reality because it satisfied him, it was his safe place. Even if he was injured, he knew that in a hospital he would be safe. In the South, juan imagines the death he always wanted. “while there was no hope in Dahlmann, there was no fear, either. As he crossed the threshold, he felt that on that first night in the sanatorium, when they’d stuck that needle in him, dying in a knife fight under the open sky, grappling with his adversary, would have been a liberation, a joy, and a fiesta. He sensed that had he been able to choose or dream his death that night, this is the death he would have dreamed or chosen.”

This is something that Juan always wanted, it didn’t bother him that the shopkeeper knew his name because in the end this is what he ultimately wanted. The same goes for the protagonist in The Night Face Up, although he didn’t choose his fate, he got the chance to reimagine a sanctuary. Sometimes reality can be disappointing and we we could live in a reality of our own in which we make the rules. In every single societiy, everything that we know, we just cant know for sure what is real and what isn’t. Just as the short stories portray different realities, we can assume that one reality is real but honestly, how can we know for sure? We are limited to a reflection of a reflection, of a reflection. Everything that exists in our head, we don’t really know what reality is. We can say that what we are doing right now is what is happening as of this moment, but how can you prove that? We just believe it.

We are limited by our consciousness, where unreal thing, such as ideas, or awareness comes around. What we see is sort of like inside of a cave in which a fire is creating light and creatures pass by and all we saw were their shadows, that’s our limit of apprehension. We can’t actually answer, or prove that we are where we are. exists. We don’t know for sure if our mother’s exists, that’s just what we think. We might say “she held me” We cant prove that because that is what we think. Sure, we might say that we have photos and memory to have proof, but we cant know for sure that it really is what it is. Just as in The Night Face Up, the protagonist cant see what is real until the very end.

René Descartes, writer of Mediations On First Philosphy witdraws himself from his actual senses, forcing himself to think past his imagination and into his pure ability to prove his reality. He states that, “even bodies are not properly known by the senses nor by the faculty of imagination, but by the understanding alone” Descartes even questions his own body. He believed that the only reason humans know that they have bodies is due to the understanding through the use of ones senses, something in which he had already doubted. Descartes clearly disconnects his imagination from his reality, because he thinks in order to turn his beliefs into knowledge, he has to explain them with only real information. Since his imagination cannot be described as entirely true knowledge, he must seperate his imagination into an ultimately unalike world.

Many believe that it is preposterous to even think about questioning the orientation of our reality. For example, in Hispanic socieites, many will argue the fact that there is no need to question it because of the existence of God. A strong and strict faith in God knows that it doesn’t need to think about the idea of there being an external reality than from the one we are actually living in. They believe that everything there is to know is “up to God”. I’ve heard this saying all around many Hispanic homes. I remember visiting a friend who had a strict religious mother, she would talk to me about God and how He is great and we don’t have to worry or doubt the things in this world because all we need to do is believe in Him.

I’ll be honest, I myself am a Chrsitian, and I believe in God but to not think about there being other worlds outside of our own reality seems to me that the person is just limited to the idea and fixed upon the idea of just believing in God. I feel that Hispanic Christians should be more open minded. A lot of people in my church would never even think about something like this. I feel that it is important to think about these things even if it is beyond God because it lets us see what other people might think. Sure, many might disagree with the fact that there are other realities or that we’re not even sure that we’re living in this world, but its really something fascinating to think about.

Christians will never say that their life is disappointing, that’s because “God lets these things happen for a reason”. That’s something that I also believe but with respect I think sometimes we should just think outside of that box. Both Juan from The South and the protagonist from The Night Face Up have different views on their reality compared to their dream or imagination. So does René Descartes in his Mediations On First Philosophy. So do I, I believe that their really is an external reality, other than the one that we are supposedly currently living on. Whether anyone beilives it or not.

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Forming a Mental Image or Concept. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved from

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