Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beattie tells the story of Andrea and her fixation on the ceramic bowl in an objective, detached way. There is little plot; the reader is shown a glimpse of a time during which Andrea’s obsession grows. Details about the bowl, the day-to-day stimuli in Andrea’s life, and her state of mind are given profusely and objectively, in a flat tone. Beattie does not suggest how one should react to Andrea’s plight, but simply puts it forth. The story ends without resolution. The reader has more awareness of the relationship between the bowl and Andrea’s loveless life, between her past choices and her present condition, than Andrea herself does.

The drama in the story is predominantly psychological. The reader is told that Andrea dreams about the bowl, that she has a deep connection with it, that it is a mystery to her, and that she loves it. She focuses her life around it, centering all of her sales strategies on the bowl and refusing to talk to her husband about it, concealing from him details about her use of the bowl and thus about her life at work, and therefore shutting him out of her life even more than she had done in the earlier years of their loveless marriage. At the end, Beattie describes the bowl just as she depicts Andrea: “still, safe, and unilluminated.” Beattie provokes a certain amount of horror in her reader by suggesting a life with so little self-knowledge.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Children of the 1960s
Born in 1947, Beattie reached adulthood during the 1960s. Although her stories are not set in the 1960s,...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Symbols and Imagery
The bowl in ‘‘Janus’’ serves as both the primary image and symbol of the story. Indeed, the story...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The bowl in "Janus" serves as both the primary image and symbol of the story. Indeed, the story seems to be more about the bowl than about...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Beattie's fiction has sparked controversy in some critical circles due to her use of minimalist techniques. However, her approach is...

(The entire section is 169 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"Janus" first appeared in the May 27, 1985, issue of the New Yorker magazine. It later appeared in the 1986 collection Where You'll...

(The entire section is 433 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1980s: In 1981 the divorce rate peaks at 5.3 divorces for every 1000 people, before falling off slightly in the next few years.


(The entire section is 199 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, and Bobbie Ann Mason are often classified as ‘‘K-Mart realists.’’ Read several stories by each writer...

(The entire section is 171 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Reviews of Beattie's fiction are often mixed; it seems as if critics either love or hate her work. Although her 1989 novel, Picturing...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Park City: New and Selected Stories (1998) offers a collection of some of Beattie's most well-received stories. The collection allows...

(The entire section is 95 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Park City: New and Selected Stories (1998) is a collection of some of Beattie’s best stories. The collection allows the reader to...

(The entire section is 163 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Aldridge, John A. Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly Line Fiction, New York: Charles...

(The entire section is 347 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Centola, Steven R. “An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Contemporary Literature 31 (Winter, 1990): 405-422.

Friedrich, Otto. “Beattieland.” Time 135 (January 22, 1990): 68.

Hill, Robert W., and Jane Hill. “Ann Beattie.” Five Points 1 (Spring/Summer, 1997): 26-60.

McCaffery, Larry, and Sinda Gregory. “A Conversation with Ann Beattie.” Literary Review 27 (Winter, 1984): 165-177.

Montresor, Jaye Berman, ed. The Critical Response to Ann Beattie. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Murphy, Christina....

(The entire section is 133 words.)