The exquisitely beautiful, fourteenth-century, Middle English dream vision Pearl can be interpreted as a consolation. In early scholarship on the poem, literary critics engaged in a vigorous debate over whether the poem was an elegy or an allegory,1 and in response, John Conley proposed that the poem might belong to a third genre, consolatio. Ian Bishop and others subsequently agreed with him.2 But the idea that the Dreamer of Pearl is consoled, or that Pearl has a consolatory effect on readers, came under suspicion-even attack. Davenport has argued, for example, that the poem is actually a contra-consolatio.3 Nicholas Watson has made a related case in his essay, “The Gawain-Poet as Vernacular Theologian,” asserting of the poem’s conclusion (lines 1201-12) that it “is not immediately obvious how the jeweler can derive so comforting a lesson from his bruising encounter with eternity nor how the poet can reconcile this picture of the ‘eþe’ [“ease”] of Christian living with his analysis of the profound gap between earth and heaven. …”4 Using the theoretical paradigms of psychoanalysis for interpretation, which might be characterized as Freudian and feminist respectively, David Aers and Sarah Stanbury have closely considered the emotional progress of the Dreamer of Pearl as well.5 Aers affirms his filiation with Pearl scholarship that “focuses on the narrator’s ‘inability to relinquish old ties’ and sees the poem’s conclusion as an achievement of ‘practical consolation,’ of ‘acceptance’ of death in which the narrator shows ‘selflessness and fatherly affection,’”6 while Stanbury takes an equally nuanced but nevertheless opposing position:

The final stanza group, in which the narrator recounts his reluctant acceptance of the terms of loss once he has awakened from the dream, resonates with a sense of ‘if only’ … But this articulation of words beyond consolation, ‘if only, then …’ reminds us finally that the narrative, however formally shaped by religious allegory, returns to human losses and to the melancholic recapitulations of grief … in Pearl, the girl is never forgotten nor are her losses every fully put to rest.7