"Janus" by Ann Beattie

28Dec04

A woman lusting after a bowl….kinky.

The end of the story very clearly connects Andrea’s attachment to the bowl with her unresolved feelings about a former relationship. But the bowl seems to represent the allure of “deviant” sexuality for this woman. The bowl is a remnant of a deviant relationship—an affair she had while she was married. And, to get a little Freudian, the bowl is a fairly yonic symbol. Her “lust” for the bowl suggests a lesbian attraction. Basically, the bowl seems represent everything that is not her marriage. In Beattie’s description of Andrea and her husband, their marriage sounds a little lifeless. Her husband declares the bowl “pretty” but “He had no more interest in the bowl than she had in his new Leica.” In the bowl, she looks for “one small flash of blue, a vanishing point on the horizon.” This view of the horizon suggests that Andrea sees no limit in the bowl, while she cannot even bring herself to tell her husband about her opinion that the bowl has made her a successful real estate broker.

I can’t quite figure out the significance of the title. Janus, of course, is a Roman god — the god of gates and doors, of beginnings and endings. Janus is represented as a head with two faces looking in oposite directions. Sometimes one face has a beard while the other does not. The beginnings and endings part of Janus’ description makes sense to me in context of the story—the bowl suggests the ending of a past relationship, and perhaps her current relationship, and an infinite number of new relationships—but I’m not sure what to do with the double face thing. While I suppose that Andrea was deceitful, in that she hid a relationship from her husband, I wouldn’t really call her two-faced. And I can’t quite fit a notion of duality into the story either.

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