Essay On Book, An Angel At My Table Essay, Research Paper
In the autobiography we learn much about the author and her experience, as about the age and society in which she lives. Discuss this statement with the specific references to the book (Min. 750 words).
From the “down the line” to the “first ocean voyage and it’s running smoothly”. For someone who is not familiar with Janet Frame biography it sounds almost as a fiction, but for everyone who had read the novel it is living history, proof that there is no limit in ordinary human life.
Janet Frame’s “journey” had begun on day of her arrival in a big city Dunedin. From day one she started to feel anxiety that was significant point for her future life. Being alone, afraid of the city and Training College and teaching, and yet pretending that none of these was happening, it was almost like living two different lives. With strong imagination (everyone would recognize her as a true poet – refer to page 14) the only company in her life at that stage were the poets. In reality, there was noone to talk to (refer to page 17). And yet, she could not imagine herself belonging to the relatives and friends (page 14). Moreover, there was another contradiction: Feeling isolated and at the same time learning the language, the attitudes and customs of behavior she also started to feel euphoria of belonging (page 18). So, she had to cope with those contradictions all by herself, which easily may put anyone in all kinds of trouble. Besides she did not dare to admit it (page 23).
The conditions of that time were such that she could not afford to live independently and support herself. Therefore she had to stay with her relatives and accept all consequences and pressures it brought. She in fact hated staying at home and her dissatisfaction with family was intense (page 25), but she was not aware that her life at that stage was nothing but pretense and everything but reality. Imagination became her goal and yet, she held it in her secret poetic life (page 30). This was a common case in the society in those days, but some people, like herself, could not cope with it.
Surrounded by the war, reality and her own “reality”, she could possibly feel nothing but sadness and helplessness (page 31), so she turned herself into the writing. Living far away from comfortable life as we know today (she remembers her mother overjoy at her first use of the electric iron! – refer to page 49), she managed to teach Standard Two at Arthur Street School, Dunedin. It was a period of time known as “the latent period” when children were taught to be responsible and untroubled or if they were “trouble” it was kept as a secret (page 53).
At the age of twenty-one she is still confused by “the pity of war” (page 55) and yet have noticed that noone in society recognized that the atom bomb had been born (page 60). It may seem that not much have changed in today’s society. Or it may change for the worse?
Following “the latent period” she appeared to be a lovely girl, no troubled at all. However, underneath she started to think that suicide was the only way for her to escape isolation and avoid all masks that everyone was wearing (pages 62 and 63). And when she honestly and openly wrote about it, she became one of the loonies, one of those who were sent “down the line” (page 65).
She became part of institutional life where many patients had no past, no future and had only a nickname (page 69). I wonder if anyone among “ordinary” people has ever thought about these “secret” people and if anyone does, then in what way?
For Janet Frame there was no doubt that she was totally present in the “real” world, but also that she was in the world of imagination (page 73).
According to Janet Frame there was no word from College or school or University, as they did not care for her. And yet, they were still teaching children about love and how to care (page 75).
Her experience clearly describes the attitude of society she lived in. It also shows the lack of understanding and what the level of medical and psychiatric practice was at the time. Inaccurate and unjustified diagnosis and questionable professional ethic may (and probably have!) ruined many lives. It leads us to think that such ignorance and lack of knowledge was typical for that time!
Fortunately medical science and overall attitude of the society have developed and changed for better. Sometimes we still find wrong attitudes in the society or ignorance among medical professionals, however these are generally isolated cases and do not represent current practice.