You Are Now Entering the Human Heart Summary

Janet Frame


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“You Are Now Entering the Human Heart” is a macabre tale of an elderly schoolteacher who permits a harmless snake to be wrapped around her neck in order to demonstrate to her class that there is no reason for fear. As she sits, trying to overcome her revulsion for the sake of impressing her class, the reader sees into her inner world, her heart. She is old and will soon retire to a life of fear and solitude, afraid to go out onto the streets of Philadelphia. She has no reason to learn not to fear snakes, but she is willing to lie for her class. The children remain too scared to touch the snake, but the teacher’s mask slips when the snake moves its head close to hers. She involuntarily throws the snake from her and shatters the illusion she has created. The children, who a moment before were filled with admiration, now see their teacher helplessly exposed.

The violence of casting the snake away is symbolic of the violence with which Frame casts away illusion. She has had to learn to balance her extreme sensitivity with her ferocious integrity.

“Keel and Kool” is the story of a New Zealand family taking an outing after the death of the eldest daughter, Eva. “Keel and kool” is the sound made by seagulls crying in the sky. In the story it becomes a lament for the death of Eva, Winnie’s older sister. This may be interpreted as a reference to Frame’s older sister, Myrtle, as autobiographical detail is mixed with fantasy.


(The entire section is 580 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ashcroft, Bill, et al., eds. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1989.

Delbaere, Jeanne, ed. The Ring of Fire: Essays on Janet Frame. Sydney, N.S.W.: Dangaroo Press, 1992.

Evans, Patrick. Janet Frame. Boston: Twayne, 1977.

King, Michael. An Inward Sun: The World of Janet Frame. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books, 2002.

King, Michael. Wrestling with an Angel: A Life of Janet Frame. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000.

Oettli-van Delden, Simone. Surfaces of Strangeness: Janet Frame and the Rhetoric of Madness. Wellington, New Zealand: Victorian University Press, 2003.

Panny, Judith Dell. I Have What I Gave. New York: George Braziller, 1993. Rev. ed. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press, 2002.

Ross, Robert L., ed. International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers. New York: Garland, 1991.

Wilkse, Maria. Materialisations of a Woman Writer: Investigating Janet Frame’s Biographical Legend. New York: P. Lang, 2006.