Intensive Care Themes (Janet Frame)

Janet Frame

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Although part 3 exists in the future, it is the past that informs that future and the present. Illusory dreams, romantic or bureaucratic, lead to destructive behavior, and part 3 is the logical, even inevitable, result of part 1. The sheep in the slaughterhouse beside Tom’s cement factory are the soldiers in World War I, representing the past, the docile New Zealanders waiting for Classification Day represent the future. The parallels between the futuristic Human Delineation Act and Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust are suggested by the use to which the Animals are to be put as slave labor and as raw material for shoes and lamp shades. (In fact, Milly’s diary is reminiscent of a similar diary written by Anne Frank.) The Holocaust (with its association with burning) is itself related to the fire motif that runs through the story in Tom’s “Flame” and metaphorically in the English recovery unit, “Culin” (kiln or furnace) Hall, where Tom’s dreams are destroyed.

As Frame points out, “All dreams lead back to the nightmare garden,” which is associated with Milly’s “hisstree,” a misspelling that also connotes the mythic fall from innocence. While Frame’s characters are hardly innocent, they can repeat the fall as they sink to lower depths as they ironically believe they are progressing. This degradation is tied to the relationship between people and vegetation, most of which has been destroyed by the time part 3 begins. The pear tree serves...

(The entire section is 551 words.)