Symbolism of the Bowl in Anne Beattie's "Janus"

Topics: Short story, Tell, The Lover Pages: 3 (895 words) Published: January 31, 2006
The protagonist of Anne Beattie's short story, "Janus," is a woman by the name of Andrea, an upper-class real-estate agent who seems to have a pleasant and uncomplicated lifestyle. Yet as the story unfolds, the reader learns that Andrea is not at all satisfied with her life, and she has a very large and significant secret which makes her life extremely complex. Though Andrea is "Janus"'s main character, Beattie chooses to employ an ordinary—yet unusual—inanimate object as her story's leading role. It seems at first that the bowl that Beattie centers her story around is merely a tool Andrea uses to lure people to buy the houses she is showing. But as the story progresses, the reader learns of the significance and sentiment the bowl has for Andrea, and the secret it reveals and represents. In the beginning, Andrea simply brings the bowl along to each home she visits in order to enhance its appearance and thus heighten her chances for making a sale; similar to the fact that "when she thought that some prospective buyers might be dog-lovers, she would drop off her dog…" But throughout the story, her use and placement of the bowl become an obsession for Andrea. She places it on a lone table, removing all other items so that the bowl becomes the main focal point. When a client calls Andrea to ask where she can get a similar bowl, Andrea pretends not to know; yet it is obvious that she is well-aware where the bowl came from, and she simply does not want to tell anyone. Andrea becomes both possessive and obsessive about the bowl. As an example of her obsessive behavior, Beattie tells of an event where Andrea leaves the bowl at a home she has just shown. Upon realizing she has forgotten the bowl, Andrea races back to her client's house, "wonder[ing] how she could have left the bowl behind. It was like leaving a friend at an outing – just walking off. Sometimes there were stories in the paper about families forgetting a child somewhere and driving to the next...
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