Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Typical of Janette Turner Hospital’s stories, “Unperformed Experiments Have No Results” is a story in which a personal experience of considerable emotional significance is controlled by the central character’s attempt to understand the philosophical significance of the event. In this story, the philosophical issue of time and accident is announced in the first two paragraphs when Philippa says she is no longer certain of chronology and finds herself obsessed with the neatness of patterns of chance and the random conjunction of events. However, she says the closer she tries to focus her memory about the sequence of the events that seem so randomly conjoined, the hazier things become. She theorizes that this is the result of the scientific notion that a person cannot engage in an act of observation without changing the thing observed.

The man she sees paddling the canoe and who she thinks is her friend Brian is an emblem of her perception of him—persistent, determined, adventurous, and battling against all odds—all qualities that she feels she does not possess. Brian is a risk taker and a man of some passion, thus appearing in her dream as Ophelia. Philippa, however, like Hamlet, can only look on and is never able to take the same kinds of risky plunges that Brian does. Although there is no indication of any romantic relationship between Philippa and Brian, they do seem complementary soul mates: he the scientist, but passionate and adventurous,...

(The entire section is 550 words.)