Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Janus, the Roman god of doorways, gates, and beginnings, has two faces; one looks forward, the other backward. Janus represents duplicitousness; his qualities are strikingly apparent in the character of Andrea. She too looks both forward and backward. Her life is marked by her growing success in her real estate career, and she looks forward to her next sale as she plans the techniques she will use to ensure the sale. Her whole married life has been a matter of looking forward to more possessions and greater financial success rather than enjoying the present. At the same time, Andrea looks backward more and more as the story progresses. She is not consciously aware that she is looking backward, but by the end of the story the reader is aware that her obsession with the bowl represents a longing for a past that is no longer available to her. When she has to choose between husband and lover, she continues to look both ways, unwilling to choose. Ultimately the choice is made for her when her lover departs.

Andrea is also duplicitous. Her affair is an obvious example, but there are other examples in the way she conducts her business. She uses deceptive techniques to sell houses, taking pride in her ability to make the subtle changes that appeal to buyers. She lies to her clients as well: When she forgets her bowl at one of her houses, she tells the woman of the house that it is a new purchase that she set down for safekeeping. When a buyer calls to inquire...

(The entire section is 560 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although it might not be apparent on first reading, "Janus" can be perceived as Beattie's philosophy of aesthetics. Aesthetics is a branch of...

(The entire section is 618 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Although it might not be apparent on first reading, ‘‘Janus’’ can be perceived as Beattie’s philosophy of...

(The entire section is 705 words.)