Weaving the stories of characters of types of people from Esther to Freud allows Barker to show a broad-sweeping panorama of history, from the lower classes to the intelligentsia of Europe. While characters come from very different segments of society, the commonly-shared desires for love, riches, and self-improvement unite them all. All of the characters, however tangentially are linked, and show different aspects of the American Dream. For example, to depict the immigrant experience, Baker has Esther dating a non-Jew, Kid Twist, who emigrates on the same ocean liner that Freud and Jung take across the seas. The novel begins with the Kid rescuing a newsboy (who is actually a dwarf named Trick) from to Esthers brother, Gyp the Blood. This illustrates the Kids kind nature, despite his impoverished existence, in contrast to the criminal Gyp who eventually tries to kill the Kid.
The strength of Dreamland as a novel is the way it seamlessly blends fact with fiction: New York is ruled by Tammany Hall, and crime and corruption is everywhere.
The police are just as much on the take as criminals. But the fictional Big Tim Sullivans crimes in office do not necessarily make him evil, merely a pragmatist. Some characters use crime and corruption to improve their lots in life while others are uncompromising in their intellectual dreams and ideals. Sadly, in the immoral real world the most idealistic characters, including Esther, are not rewarded for their purity and goodness.
Baker, Kevin. Dreamland. HarperCollins,.