Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley: The Basics

This Resource is for Year 12 students studying Tessa Hadley’s ‘Bad Dreams and Other Stories’ in the VCE Victorian Curriculum for 2024 Unit 3 AOS1 Reading and Responding to Texts.


Tessa Hadley is a British writer of 6 novels and 2 short story collections.  Her 10 narratives in ‘Bad Dreams and Other Stories’ are realist in style and set in England between the early 20th century and the present day.  They typically examine the experiences of women, often in terms of the psychological ramifications of family relationships, sexual encounters, or seemingly innocuous events.  The stories turn things upside down into new thresholds that are crossed, pushing character’s feelings of safety into another new perspective on the problem.


Many stories deal with transformation and the need for her characters to process new experiences with sometimes seismic shifts of understanding and memory that can occur in a lifetime.  The reader asks if the retelling of the event or relationship helps to clarify how one feels, or does it layer one’s experiences with a new perspective, recasting the memory, changing the plots points?


The stories speak deeply to the experience of change and loss and misery dealt to women who care for themselves, for other people, or for abstract principles like love or justice.  While some situations might be considered ‘everyday’ these experiences are shown to be significantly formative, shaping identities or facilitating transitions from innocence to experience. While gaining experience can be revelatory, it can also be fraught with danger and in some stories the characters are punished for their desire to have that particular experience.

What is important is the uncovering of secrets in the revelatory experiences. When secrets are revealed their impact can be shocking as well as enlightening.

Bad Dreams Story Collection
An Abduction p.1-29
3rd person omniscient
Jane Allsop protagonist  
The Stain p.31-55
3rd person omniscient
Marina protagonist  
Deeds Not Words p.57-65
3rd person limited
Edith Carew protagonist  
One Saturday Morning p.67-86
3rd person limited
Carrie protagonist  
Experience p.87-111
1st person
Laura protagonist
Bad Dreams p.113-126
Shifting 3rd person limited
Unnamed young girl protagonist  
Flight p.127-152
3rd person limited
Claire protagonist
Under the Sign of the Moon p.153-182
3rd person limited Greta protagonist  
Her Share of Sorrow p.183-194
3rd person omniscient
Ruby protagonist
Silk Brocade p.195-215 Shifting 3rd person limited
Ann Gallagher protagonist  
Themes from Stories
Transformation of a personTransformation of clothes or specific items  Memory & remembrance
DreamsChange  Social status & social change
Relationships between families & couplesGrowth & development of children & naivety  Empathy, sympathy & tenderness
Death, loss & misery & disability  Tragedy & atonementLove, forbidden love & sexual encounters
Identities & crisis of identity  Wry humourEpiphany & perception
Delusions & disappointment  Self-improvementRe-telling of an event
Hope & hopelessness of lifeHappiness in the moment or event  Secrets and their revelations

All Resources created by Online Tutoring using Zoom for Mainstream English Students in the Victorian Curriculum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *