The Empty Bowl On

“Janus” Essay, Research Paper

The Empty Bowl on “Janus”

In “Janus” Ann Beattie starts out by describing a certain bowl. The entire essay describes this bowl in many different situations and from different points of view. After reading the story one might think the bowl symbolizes herself or changes in her life or even the way she looks at herself. However unconventional it may seem, a deeper analysis of the story pointed me in the direction of seeing the bowl as a symbol of her love.

Initially the bowl is perfect, as any new love seems to be, spite not being the conventional beauty that everyone would see: “ The bowl was perfect. Perhaps it was not what you’d select if you faced a shelf of bowls, and not the sort of thing that would inevitably attract a lot of attention at a crafts fair, yet it had real presence” (Par. 1). Everyone that finds a new love often thinks of it as perfect, even if other people say the contrary and do not pay much attention to it.

When the narrator talks about the bowl on paragraphs two to four, it is clear that even dough Andrea is proud of her bowl she tries to make it as unnoticeable as possible. She tries to make it blend in with the other things as it was not strategically placed: “ But the bowl was not ostentatious, or even so noticeable that anyone would suspect that it had been placed deliberately” (Par. 4). She knew people would notice it but not know that it was placed there on purpose, right at their face, to make them feel at home.

The narrator also describes how Andrea perceives this love within her. The bowl was kept on a coffee table because she wanted to see it, it was large enough that it did not seem fragile or vulnerable, that was the way she saw this love. She was glad she had it and felt it was strong and invulnerable.

In the first line of paragraph seven she uses foreshadowing and hints to the reader what is going to happen at the end: “She didn’t keep it carefully wrapped…” (Par. 7). The fact that she did not keep it carefully wrapped means that she did not take care very well of her love and the relationship could only end the way it did.

Paragraph eight is key in understanding Andrea’s reasons to find a new love and why this love is so special to her. She describes her husband’s reaction to the bowl, which really symbolizes his reaction when he notices that something is different. He notices she is happy even dough he does not know why. He smiles and says the bowl is pretty, glad to see that his wife is happy but never examining the reason, he never picks up the bowl and looks at it closely. Andrea also notices that he has no more interest in her bowl that she has in his camera, which probably symbolizes his lover.

The main character fells this love brings her luck, she is selling more houses than ever and the bowl becomes more and more important to her. One day Andrea forgets the bowl in one of the houses she is trying to sell, she gets desperate and rushes back to the house. In the first moment she fells that she does not have her love or that she might lose it, she gets desperate and runs back to him. Her lover, who thinks it is strange that she is back, does not notice until that moment how carefully she had introduced her love into his life.

Towards the end of the story Andrea wants to tell her husband about her lover and explain to him all that it means for her. She does not know where to start, she wants to tell him but cannot make herself do it and she fells guilty for having that secret every time she looks at him.

Slowly, Andrea was building a mysterious relationship with the bowl and she felt thankful for the bowl’s help in selling the houses. That made her think how long is this love going to last and the fact that it never demands anything, back made her uncomfortable: “ It was frustrating, because her evolvement with the bowl contained a steady sense of unrequited good fortune; It would be have been easier to respond if some sort of demand was made in return” (Par. 13).

This bowl, or love, is very important to Andrea. She worries about this feeling so much that it keeps her awake at night wondering if something is ever going to destroy it. Now that her lover is gone, she still loves him and fells like she needs this love to hide dark spots in her soul. “In a world where people set plants where they did not belong, so that visitors touring the house would be fooled into thinking that dark corners got sunlight” (Par. 15). The author uses Andrea’s sales techniques of putting plants in a dark corner of the house to pretend it got sunlight to symbolize Andrea’s need for something similar inside her.

In the last Paragraph, The reader realizes that Andrea still fells this love inside her. For her it still seems as perfect but not in the same way as in the beginning of the story. Now her love is cut up in half and it feels deep and empty, the small flash of blue in the horizon is the hope that will always be there.

Throughout the story, The author leads the reader through the different stages of a hidden love affair. Like in every love story the romance starts out being perfect, the best thing in the world, then it changes into something that the lovers are ashamed of. At the end one of the lovers becomes tired of waiting and leaves. The person left behind will be always hopeful that one day the loved one will come back.


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