“Janus” by Ann Beattie, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

In the short story, “Janus,”  author Ann Beattie uses a simple bowl to reveal that an object’s symbolism may be so powerful as to represent a person’s entire being, and simply because of what that person invests in it.  On one level, many symbolic meanings may be attached to the bowl that is so central to the life of Andrea, the protagonist.  She keeps it empty always, which could indicate an inability or unwillingness on her part to give of herself.  This is emphasized by her refusing to allow her husband to even place his keys within it.  On another level, this same emptiness of the bowl may suggest a state of possibilities  Andrea is not ever about to explore.  More exactly, her fascination with the hollow space of the bowl permits her to always be where choices and potentials of life have not yet made a claim upon her.  These symbolic meanings themselves, however, point to how deep the greater symbolism is.  Andrea places her essence in the bowl, because it was identified for her by a former lover: “He’d urged her to buy it. Then he bought it for her” (p. #).  This powerfully reveals that, at this point in her life, she has been truly known by the man, and consequently the bowl comes to represent this totality of herself to herself.   It is a kind of knowledge but, again, it is suspended because her nature demands that it remain so.  In a sense, then, it is the emptiness of the bowl that has the true meaning, and not the bowl itself.  Andrea’s fears reflect this:  “She began to worry that something would happen to it”  (p. #).   Even in so short a story, the reader already understands that her real concern is that something will fill the space, and she will be lost.

Works Cited

Beattie, Ann.  Where You’ll Find Me: And Other Stories.  New York: Scribner, 2002.  Print.

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