Symbolism in Janus

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 178
  • Published : November 20, 2012
Open Document
Text Preview
4
Jonathan Whidden

English 1900B

Ian McAdam

September 29th,2012

Symbolism in Janus

“The bowl was just a bowl”. (Beattie 455) In the short story “Janus” writer Anne Beattie uses a

simple bowl to be the central focus of symbolism in the story. The bowl can be interpreted to mean or

symbolize many different things. The bowl belongs to the protagonist of the story Andrea, a successful

real estate agent who is married to her husband of many years. It has been argued that the bowl

symbolizes everything from the life that Andrea lives or the world that Andrea lives in. Though there

are strong arguments for these arguments among many others, I believe the strongest evidence of what

the bowl symbolizes is a personality or traits of a character that repeats itself throughout the story. This

character is not so coincidentally the title of the short story “Janus”. In the following essay I will argue

that the bowl symbolizes an ancient god by the name of “Janus” and all of his traits powers or

attributes. Beattie uses the bowl to symbolize all of the traits of the ancient god thru the life of our

protagonist Andrea.

To begin we must examine who this god was believed to be so we can relate it to the story.

“Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a

double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. He was worshipped at the beginning of the

harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of

important events in a person's life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and

civilization, between the countryside and the city, peace and war, and the growing-up of young

people.”(Janus)
4

As mentioned above, it is no coincidence that Beattie chose this title. The two faces Janus the

god has is a symbolism in itself, it symbolizes deceit as I interpret two-facedness as being deceitful or

as Beattie writes “tricked”. We will learn that Andrea herself, proves to be deceitful and deceived, she

is tricked herself. Andrea also is also stuck between two different life's as we come to learn. She is

stuck in the middle of new beginnings and endings in her relationships. Andrea seems unsure or lacks

he courage to decide which path she would like to take. Andrea's life had many doorways she could

have opened, unfortunately for Andrea, she stays on the doorstep.

There are two important factors of Andrea's life that the bowl plays a major part in, her social

life and her professional life. Let's begin with Andrea's social life. Andrea is married to her husband of

several years. Though Andrea and her husband have been together for a few years, they have no

children together. Andrea and her husband both have their own successful careers as Andrea is a real

estate agent and her husband a stock broker. For all the financial success they enjoy, their marriage was

far from perfect. Both Andrea and her husband are a lot alike yet distant from each other. “They were

both quiet people- reflective, slow to make value judgments.” (Beattie 455) Their relationship is where

the symbolism of bowl comes into play, the bowl was a gift from a former lover of Andrea's. The bowl

was actually a gift from a former lover. “She had first seen the bowl several years earlier, at a crafts fair

she had visited half in secret, with her lover.” (Beattie 456) Andrea hid the origins of the bowl from her

husband which is evidence of her two-facedness, “There were times where she wanted to talk to her

husband about the bowl.” (Beattie 455) The fact that Andrea has kept the origins of bowl rom her

husband is an example of her deception. It also shows an unwillingness to let go of the past. If Andrea

wanted to rid herself of the memories of this former relationship, would she not rid herself of...
tracking img