Dark Sneaks In: Essays on the Short Fiction of Janet Frame

Ian Richards

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The Facts of Life: The Bath

Janet Frame's story 'The Bath' had its genesis in a real-life event which occurred in the mid-1960s. Her biographer, Michael King, has revealed that the story:

arose from a visit to the now frail widow of her favourite uncle, Bob Frame. Aunty Han had become trapped in her bath one day and would have died from exposure had it not been for a fortuitous visit from her neighbour. Frame was 'haunted' by this tale and worked it into a story which she sent to Landfall.(26)

Landfall, New Zealand's premier literary journal of the time, published the story in September 1965, and it was immediately well received.(27) 'The Bath' is an example of the type of short story by Frame which might usefully be categorised as a horror story. In fiction of this type, some horrible fact about the nature of life is revealed to an ignorant, naive or complacent character, usually as an epiphanic climax. Usually, too, it comes after a prolonged attempt by the character to avoid recognising this fact of life--or at least 'fact' to the extent that Frame assumes she leaves the reader in no doubt. Frame's didactic purpose is that the reader should identify with the character and feel something of the character's shock of discovery.

In the case of 'The Bath', an elderly woman has physical difficulties getting in and out of her bath and is finally forced to understand that her death, which she feels is not far off, will not result in an after-life. This is something that she slowly intuits, but which the reader is also supposed to learn from observing the woman's mentality: watching the failure of her mistaken belief that 'With care, with thought' she will be able to defeat the trap of the bath and therefore, by implication, defeat death's finality. Like Shakespeare's Prospero, the woman's 'Every third thought' is her grave, but her thinking eventually reaches a conclusion contrary to what she hopes for.(28) The more she resists her intuition, the more likely the reader is to be convinced by watching her resistance stripped away.

Again typically of a Frame story, the woman in 'The Bath' thinks in terms of images and motifs that the reader should interpret as metaphors, such as the bath, the graveyard, sleep and thinking itself. These supply Frame with the means to fulfil a double purpose. They can show the flow of the woman's mind, as she realises that there is no heaven, and they can be interpreted by the reader as evidence that her unhappy conclusion is true. Frame manages this latter task convincingly because she restricts the images in the fictional world she describes to a closed set, which she then manipulates towards her desired revelation. This why the metaphors in her writing often seem so elaborate, almost conceits. Through metaphor, Frame aims to show in 'The Bath'--and thus prove--the non-existence of an after-life.

The first paragraph in the story sets up the woman's situation with skill and economy. It consists of three sentences. The first presents a conventional scene: a dutiful widow makes preparations to visit her dead husband's grave. The woman is referred to as 'she' and remains unnamed throughout the story. This works to universalise her experience. The only information which marks the woman out as an individual is the name of her dead husband, John Edward Harraway, and the date he died, 5 August 1965, as if he has more individuality than his wife does. Elsewhere the story is placed clearly in Dunedin. Time and place are thus established, but like the woman's identity, these circumstances are defined only in relation to the death of the woman's husband. What is specific in the first sentence is the list of flowers which the woman has bought to put on the grave. Clearly flowers are important to her; perhaps buying them will help her encourage herself to visit the cemetery. But this is also one of many short lists of objects which, along with the clear time-and-place references, Frame includes to particularise her story and prevent its elemental theme from sliding into generalisation.

The second sentence in the first paragraph introduces the motif of the woman's thinking and, indirectly, suggests that her thoughts are not all they should be: 'Her visit this year occupied her thoughts more than usual.' The third sentence deepens the progression from the conventional into the anxious. The woman's 'journey' (a word implying something much more arduous than 'visit') to the grave is becoming more 'hazardous' each year. Why it is hazardous is not explained at first; instead the reader is given a list of the journey's stages. However, the paragraph concludes with the woman's complaint that she feels too tired at the graveyard to go home and, even more worryingly, that instead of going home she longs to lie down among the graves 'in the soft grass, and fall asleep.' Tired not just in body but also in spirit, her very existence, like her identity, is failing.

In the next paragraph, the woman's domestic routine helps her avoid her troubling feelings of the opening paragraph. She prepares a meal, listens to the radio and has a brief sleep. But the incidental description of her routine illustrates how impoverished her life is, financially, physically and mentally. Her house is heated only by coal and she uses a tea towel as a tablecloth. Her physical movements are slow and full of pain. The radio's information from the outside world appears to make no impact on her as she listens alone. She drowses while the water heats up before bathing, because 'Visits to the cemetery, doctor, and to relatives, to stay, always demanded a bath.' No explanation is offered for why a visit to a cemetery should require this. If the woman feels that taking a bath is difficult, why put herself at unnecessary risk? Possibly she wishes to bathe as a mark of respect for her dead husband. Possibly she likes to think of him as still sentient somewhere. But a third possibility is a subconscious desire to face the death which the bath represents, get it over with and proceed to heaven. In any event, the remainder of the paragraph emphasises the woman's physical difficulties in bathing. She does not proceed until her tea has been digested--usually this is associated with swimming. The woman sees herself as advancing into hostile territory: she 'ventured' from the kitchen into the 'cold passageway' and into the 'colder bathroom'. She has trouble turning on the taps. Although her kitchen fire heats the water pipes and provides her with a great deal of hot water, bathing has become a rare event. Typically of the elderly and infirm, she has begun to adapt her life to her physical circumstances.

Preparation for the bath itself involves three stages: getting a towel, setting a chair up by the bath for the woman to grasp at when she needs to get out, and having her nightclothes warmed and waiting for her. Each of these arrangements is concerned not with taking a bath so much as what happens afterwards. Getting up, drying herself and sleeping in warm clothes will be the woman's reward for persevering with the bath's travails. The reader is to interpret this aspect of the woman's mindset as corresponding metaphorically with the reward of heaven that she feels should follow suffering and death.

The woman allows herself a brief remembrance of past trouble as she arranges the chair, 'should difficulty arise as it had last time she bathed.' From this small clue it is clear that the woman has already had a scare and is afraid of repeating the experience. She approaches the bath with considerable fear. In the first paragraph she may have been attracted by a fantasy of death, to the idea of not going home and falling asleep among graves and soft grass, but the reality of an experience equivalent to dying frightens her. Frame does not go into detail about the woman's previous 'difficulty' in the bath because the story is told in free indirect style, from the woman's point of view. The convoluted process of the woman's thoughts, in often long and sparsely punctuated sentences, imitates the flow of her thinking. Authorial comment is absent and the previous difficulty is something the woman chooses not to dwell on. Instead, the reader receives the woman's vivid impressions as she lowers herself into the tub. The view from the rim 'seemed more like the edge of a cliff with a deep drop below into the sea.' The simile 'like' is muted by the ambiguous word 'more': even more like a cliff now than the memories the woman is repressing of the last time she looked down into the bath.

The end of the paragraph describes the point of no return: 'slowly and painfully she climbed into the bath.' The physical daring in this act is expressed poetically in the sounds of the words. The jingled '-ly' sounds in the two adverbs, 'slowly' and 'painfully', suggest tentative action. The long vowels in 'slow', 'pain', 'she' and 'climb' draw the action out before the short, quick vowels of 'into the bath'. The harsh 'b' and 'th' consonants in 'bath' create a somewhat ugly sound that brings the sentence to an abrupt halt. Even the word 'climbed' suggests an extension of the image of descending a cliff.

The woman's reaction to getting into the bath is to think again of her reward: 'I'll put on my nightie the instant I get out.' But no sooner has she thought this than she repudiates the idea as unrealistic by redefining the word 'instant'. Getting out of the bath will be slow, she tells herself, longer than an instant--although this is not what she originally meant. She had meant an instant of time after she had already got out of the bath. Next, to calm herself down, the woman decides to defy the physical difficulties of getting out of the bath with her mental powers: 'With care, with thought...' She decides on being methodical in her actions and then surprising her body with a sudden effort--she does not consider that these actions are contradictory. Furthermore, the ellipsis at the end of the paragraph offers an ironic undermining of her faith in mind over matter. Another unconsidered difficulty with her tactic is that surprise only results from the cessation of thinking: to succeed, the woman has to cease being a prey to unexpressed doubts. Her faith in care and thought, perhaps by no coincidence the features of most organised religions, seems doomed from the start.

In the next paragraph, the woman focuses solely and unselfconsciously on the physical. She enjoys the pleasures of washing herself clean in a hot bath. Unfortunately, this makes bathing serve as an image of life in a manner opposite from that which the woman had originally, and subconsciously, hoped for. Instead of her suffering-and-then-reward image (death/bath, then heaven/sleep), the woman experiences pleasure (bathing/life) which must then be paid for (getting out/death). Soon, too, like someone contemplating the human condition, even her bathing pleasures are muted by her need to delay getting out. She lists parts of the body which need re-cleaning--none of which, in fact, require a bath in order to be cleaned. Then, reminding herself of her luxury and warmth, she manages to drowse.

Like the bath itself, sleep is another key motif in the story. The first time the woman drowsed was after the physical pleasure of having tea in her warm dining-room. Her reaction to comfort is sleep. Sleep is a state often compared to death, an acceptable version because it implies a pleasant state followed by a reawakening--analogous to waking into an after-life. As early as Plato's Phaedo, Socrates, in his last hours before his own death, compares sleeping and waking in an attempt to prove that there is life beyond the grave.(29) In 'The Bath' this hope is emphasised by using the word 'drowse': the sort of shallow sleep where one is likely to awaken at any moment. The comparison is comforting, hence the woman's fantasy of death expressed in the first paragraph as a desire 'to find a place beside the graves, in the soft grass, and fall asleep.' A similarly ambiguous longing for death informs the final stanza of John Clare's poem, 'I Am', written when the poet was hopelessly incarcerated in the Northampton County Asylum--though Clare's desires are expressed within a religious framework.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.(30)

The woman mimics her preferred form of death by drowsing. In the bath she puts this succinctly by wishing, 'If only she could fall asleep then wake to find herself in her nightdress in bed for the night!' Significantly, it is a wish for the impossible. Putting down the soap, brush and flannel makes the woman feel she is losing physical strength even before she has begun to get out. The nail-brush has lost the religious 'magic' as a talisman for delay that the woman 'tried to urge upon it', showing that her thinking-tactics have also started to fail before they are needed. The flannel and the soap become, to the woman, an image of flotsam that she can no longer cling to like some survivor of a wreck. The ominous last word of this paragraph is 'safety'. Most of the final words or phrases of each paragraph throughout 'The Bath' touch on the story's main features. Until this point in the story they are: 'fall asleep'; 'not possible to bath every night or even every week!'; 'into the bath'; 'with thought...'; 'safety'.

Next follows a series of short paragraphs, mostly beginning with the impersonal 'She', which focuses on the woman's isolation. She pulls the plug and feels the sinking water 'trying to draw her down, down into the earth', which the reader is to interpret as similar to a being lowered into a grave. The bath-metaphor for death is thus also confirmed as an image the woman associates with entrapment and annihilation. In the next paragraph the woman starts thinking about how she will clean the bath 'In future' in a way that will make it easier to get out. This is her thinking-tactic in operation--she concentrates on what she will do after succeeding in her escape--and it prepares her for her first attempt at getting out of the bath. But trying to get out results in a series of failures, during which the woman tells herself to try both her methodical approach ('she would try gradually, carefully to get out') and her surprise approach ('If she made the effort quickly'). All the while, although she tries to take herself in hand, the woman's sense of panic rises. Her feelings of isolation deepen until she imagines herself first underwater and then, less like being in a bath and more like being in a coffin, she feels herself 'under the earth' with wheels passing over her. This forces her to rally and try hard, but she fails 'to make the final effort' and is reduced to calling out and wishing her dead husband were present to help her. At last, complete panic makes the woman regress to childish behaviour and she cries and strikes the bath with her fist.

Having drawn out the woman's descent into panic, Frame condenses her successful exit from the bath into one brief paragraph. The woman's feelings at the moment of success are not described. Even the escape itself is presented minimally, not as a relief but merely as a prompt for further anxiety--after managing two unpleasant bath experiences, the woman wants no more. At this ambiguous point the story has reached its halfway mark, with the now established images to be worked through to the story's conclusion. The woman thinks, 'This is the end or the beginning of it.' It is the end of her independent life and the beginning of physical deterioration, to be measured in a series of humiliations of the spirit.

In bed, the woman feels 'exhausted and lonely thinking that perhaps it might be better for her to die at once.' A list follows of the physical circumscriptions of old age, ending with the woman's memory of complaining bitterly to her niece that she cannot look up at the clouds. Instead, she can only focus downwards. Metaphorically, this serves to reinforce her waning belief in heaven and her preoccupation with the grave. Next, in a second list, the woman catalogues the woes found among the 'cracks and hollows' in the ground beneath her feet: 'outside menaces' now complemented by 'the inner menace of her own body.' But the body which betrays her has become an object separate from her, an 'enemy' like the 'outside menaces' of her list. In future the woman will require a district nurse 'to help her guard and control her own body', and this seems not just humiliating but 'fearful'. The woman has now chosen, in effect, to abandon her body. However, by means of her dualistic separation of body and mind, the woman can retreat into the relative comfort of the mind and associate it with the soul. If the woman's body can no longer be controlled by mind over matter, then the mind or soul itself can still be managed with care and thought. Frame's destruction of this illusion will occupy the second half of the story, so that the final horror will be complete. In Cartesian philosophy, dualism is the attempt to show that the mind and body are distinct substances, and that therefore immortality is possible because the mind (or soul) is independent from the body. The mind or soul, therefore, cannot be substantially affected by the death of the body. Frame's story clearly seeks to refute this dichotomy.(31) Furthermore, since dualism separates the material world from the spiritual, this philosophy also reduces physical events to mere mechanisms which can be scientifically observed, unaffected by the perceiving mind. By suggesting that the body and the mind corrupt each other and that death destroys both, Frame stands in opposition to such a view, and her story can be read as a case study.

In a third list the woman uses her thoughts to conjure for herself a hostile environment of frost, the bath and putting flowers on her husband's grave. Her mind then rearranges these more acceptably--she concentrates on the pretty whiteness of the frost, comparing that to a new bath, thinking of flowers and then of her dead husband himself--so that she is able to fall asleep. And miraculously, while she sleeps, a warm wind arises. Nature's healing power appears to be at work. Indeed, though the wind is at first only 'blowing', by morning it is comparable to a 'breath' in the manner of a Wordsworthian God-in-nature. Similarly the night, which was comparable to spring, becomes spring-like in reality in the morning when a narcissus blooms in the front garden.(32) By briefly suggesting a transcendent power in nature, Frame is relaxing both her character and the reader in order to set up her climax.

Appropriately, the narrative breaks and begins again. The miracle continues, however now it is made clear that this mostly results from the woman's response to the unseasonably mild weather. Frame jumps through time and space to begin developing the image she touched on at the start of the story, when the woman thought of not going home from the graveyard but 'longed to find a place beside the graves, in the soft grass, and fall asleep'--that is, the image of the graveyard as a fantasy of death, associated with sleep and heaven. The weather at the cemetery is pleasant and 'scarcely to be believed'. The sea below the arm of the peninsula is colourful and calm, unlike the cliff with its 'deep drop below into the sea', which the woman imagined when she got into the bath the day before. In fact, she imagines this sea soothing her anxieties with childish talk, 'hush-hushing', and this version of the pathetic fallacy metamorphoses in the woman's mind into the noise of 'distant forests of peace'--a hackneyed phrase, but one which she has created to calm herself. The paragraph has moved away from the realities of nice weather into what is now entirely a mental construction. The cemetery's peacefulness arises not from the weather but from the woman's mind working to maintain and develop this rearrangement of the formerly unpleasant as pleasant, just as she did when going to sleep the previous night.

And so, her mind half inside her own fantasy, the woman enjoys her graveyard visit. She weeds her husband's grave, further discovering beneficent nature in the form of wild flowers, and puts the cut-flowers she has brought with her into jars. She follows a routine, similar to her routine of cooking and eating at the start of the story, which accomplishes a similar avoidance of troubling feelings. The writing focuses on the particularities of the woman's actions--although, interestingly, it begins with her thinking (about the location of the fork) and ends somewhere beyond thought with her dreamy, felt impressions (the blue anemones are like the sea). The woman feels the daffodils are like trumpets for blowing--the implied expression 'blowing one's own trumpet' perhaps foreshadows the woman's growing complacency--and the final word in the paragraph is 'strong'. The woman's efforts allow her to transform her husband's grave into what she later calls a 'spring garden', an expanded version of the spring-like transformation in her own front garden.

Another break allows Frame to jump past the woman's peaceful graveside communion to the action at the close of the story. Her complacency now full-blown, the woman thinks, 'I look after my husband's grave after seventeen years', satisfied by the grave's resistance to decay. There is more than a hint of self-definition in her repetition of this phrase. Then she walks among the graves and comes upon the mirror of her own complacent thoughts: her wealthy parents' elaborate tomb. The woman has no flowers for her parents' grave; her feelings toward them are ambivalent to that extent. But in her current mode of thought she notes the roominess of their grave approvingly, and around it there is 'sea-grass soft to the touch'. This reference to grass echoes one of the three features of her death-fantasy at the start of the story, namely: not going home, finding a place among the graves 'in the soft grass', and falling asleep. Finding this real-life objectification of her fantasy, the woman feels a sense of inner peace. This is expressed as a recurrence of the sea's peaceful sound and the wind in the nearby fir trees, a sensory expansion of what she felt on arriving at the cemetery. Even the nightmare of the bath (and all that it implies) now seems remote and 'senseless'--though, paradoxically, by remembering the bath the woman is keeping it in the back of her mind. The word 'bath' even ends the paragraph.

But the woman's death-fantasy reasserts itself as she sits on the edge of her parents' grave, feeling another of the three features of her fantasy: 'She did not want to go home.' Again, her perception of peace in the sound of the sea, the trees and the grass expands, and this dreaminess threatens to crowd out all her thoughts. She can concentrate only on two things: the comforting roominess of her parents' concrete-edged tomb and the restricted spring garden on her husband's very narrow grave. Her mind falters for a moment over the unfairness in this dichotomy, and she has to consider next the possibility that if there is an after-life for the soul, perhaps such inequality and even unhappiness exist in it too. Hell is as much an accepted belief as heaven. It was similarly contemplating the possibility of the 'undiscover'd country' after death being worse than life that prevented Hamlet from suicide.(33) But unlike Hamlet, the woman can bring herself to doubt how an after-life might be only through two vague questions that appear to query her own physical 'world', but which also play on the metaphorical implications of the word. Thinking both literally and metaphorically beyond the graves of her husband and parents, she wonders: 'Why when the world was wider and wider was there no space left?'; and then the darker question which takes up its own paragraph: 'Or was the world narrower?'. 'Narrow' is a key word in expressing the woman's sense of doubt over what the after-life might be, because her present world has been narrowing as her physical capabilities deteriorate.

As with the word 'bath', however, so with the word 'narrower'--the woman shrugs all this off at the start of the next paragraph with, 'She did not know; she could not think.' Yet another list follows of all the simple physical trials the woman wishes she could leave behind, although this is an evasion. It is a mental trial which is now tormenting her, undermining the fantasy of death she is still constructing. The list's final item, 'getting in and out of the bath', allows her to think once more of something close to the third aspect of her fantasy: going to sleep among the graves: 'Only to get in somewhere and stay in; to get out and stay out; to stay now, always, in one place.' She still longs for the physical and mental release of sleep, the grave and heaven.

Nevertheless, the foundations of this reverie for the soul, prompted by unseasonable weather, have been destroyed. First, the woman returns physically to her everyday life. 'Ten minutes later' finds her back at the bus stop, anxious, and feeling the clamour of the world. There is no gap in the story this time, perhaps to de-emphasise any suggestion that leaving the cemetery may have been a wrench and that the woman was contemplating suicide. The woman's thoughts begin to focus on mundane affairs and, again acting as a pathetic fallacy, the sea becomes harsh. The woman closes her eyes, trying to 'recapture' the desirable images of her death-fantasy. She tries to imagine the spring garden of her husband's grave and then her parents' roomy grave; then she tries to synthesize these images in her mind by alloying them to an image of sleep and by comparing them with two people sleeping 'together in a big soft grass double-bed'.

But this is too much. The woman's mind fails and manages only a disappointing series of images. Significantly, they are the reverse of the comforting rearrangement of unpleasant images which helped her to sleep the previous night. Those had been: the pretty whiteness of frost, a comparison of that colour to a new bath, thoughts of flowers and of her dead husband himself. But now the woman thinks of her husband's grave, then the spring-garden grave becoming 'narrower' until it turns into a bathroom, and then a bath which is old and yellow and not 'frost-white'. Instead of being able to construct a comforting mental image of the grave as bed/heaven, she is able only to imagine the grave as like the bath, 'waiting for one moment of inattention, weakness, pain, to claim her for ever.' This is not just a projection of the woman's fear of possible death the next time she takes a bath; rather, it is her fear of the nature of death itself, which she now sees as embodied in the bath--something inescapable, a trap and an annihilation. This is her epiphany. At the close of the story both the main character and the reader are supposed to have reached the same understanding. Furthermore, because the woman can no longer construct comforting mental images of the graveyard as 'a big soft grass double-bed', the 'moment of inattention' has, in effect, already happened. The woman's body is trapped by the physical reality of her bath-difficulties and her mind by what she now knows it represents. Death is the failure of body and mind, and the woman now exists in a death-in-life.

'All flesh is grass' is one of the more distressing reminders of mortality in the Bible.(34) Grass is thus widely recognised as a metaphor for mortality, albeit one lightened by the promise of an after-life. Frame repudiates this with an image of death as a 'grass-yellow' bath. Frame's bath is not, as it might have been, a transforming, healing vessel with baptismal-like water, but simply an enamel trap. This is something the main character is supposed to intuit through the arrangement of imagery and the reader to learn through the interpretation of metaphor, but to some extent these two processes overlap awkwardly, and Frame can be accused of wanting to have her cake and eat it too. The main character's intuitive understanding of the nature of death as a trap is necessarily vague, a building up and shuffling of concrete images which gradually become psychologically significant. But in some ways the reader's interpretive understanding is even more vague, perhaps dangerously so, since the reader must learn by observation just what the story's metaphors, such as the bath, may mean. The vehicle and tenor of Frame's metaphors are not so well established as grass/flesh is, perhaps because they typically have no wider frame of reference than her fiction. There is little intrinsically trap-like about a bath. Thus Frame has to move somewhat delicately between the two processes of guiding her obtuse main character to a specific epiphanic climax and educating her reader about the deeper meaning of this painful case. Even in a short work like 'The Bath' the arrangements of images and metaphors occasionally become too complex for their own good. Is there some clumsiness in the way Frame moves her main character's image-laden thoughts from a roomy parental grave through a world 'wider and wider', then possibly 'narrower', to the bath and her hopes to 'get in somewhere and stay in'? The sheer variety of metaphors to be interpreted inhibits the reader's successful carrying over of meaning from the physical to the metaphysical. And what of Frame writing about the mild night-weather, 'the same warm wind as gentle as a mere breath, was blowing'? The comparison of wind to breath is significant for both main character and reader. Yet is this comparison located in the woman's thoughts? It is not clear, and nor is the expression 'like a spring night' earlier in the same sentence. One is left with the uncomfortable realisation that Frame is suddenly present, directing everybody's response.

Despite the elaborate descriptions of flowers, trees and the sea in the story, Frame's imagery is essentially anti-Romantic. She assumes there is no God-like, transcendent power in nature and she aims to locate such Romantic imagery in the mind of her self-deluding main character. In fact, Frame herself is the only transcendent power the story has to offer and she remains in the background, like the sort of God she denies, while the story operates to tear away illusions. When her main character mimics Frame's modus operandi by building up imagery to form her own view of death, it is perhaps significant that the character is revealed as at her most self-deluding. Yet at the last, Frame's story succeeds to the extent that she manages to leave her main character and the reader in no doubt about the 'fact' she wishes to convey: life is horror.


26. King, Michael. Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame. Washington DC, Counterpoint, 2000: 291. A further, perhaps unconscious, origin for this story may lie in Frame's childhood observation of her parents' reaction the first time her brother suffered an epileptic fit: '"A bath," Mother cried. "Put him in a bath." Dad carried the crying Bruddie into the bathroom. We four girls were sent back to our bedroom, where we cuddled up to one another, talking in frightened whispers and shivering in the cold Oamaru night'. [Frame, Janet. To the Is-land: An Autobiography: Volume One. Auckland, Century Hutchinson, 1982: (chap 8) 69-70.]

27. 'The Bath', Landfall 75, vol. 19 no. 3 (Sept. 1965): 225-230. Collected in Frame, Janet. You Are Now Entering the Human Heart. Wellington, Victoria University Press, 1983: 180-7.

28. Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. V.1, line 311.

29. Plato. Phaedo. Homer in The Iliad refers to sleep as the 'twin brother' of death.

30. Clare, John. 'I Am', lines 13-18.

31. Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy: VI. Despite the story's apparently atheistic view of death, the Christadelphian faith of Frame's mother may have been a contributing factor in Frame's thinking, as this faith exerted an influence throughout her childhood. Christadelphians believe that 'when you died, you died, staying in your grave until the Second Coming and the Resurrection and Judgment Day.' [Frame, Janet. To the Is-land: An Autobiography: Volume One. Auckland, Century Hutchinson, 1982: (chap 15) 123.] Such a view of death would find mind/body dualism both important and problematic. For a discussion of the influence of Christadelphian beliefs on Frame's writing, see: Williams, Mark. Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists. Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1990: 30-35. This issue appears again in other Frame stories. See notes 145 and 157.

32. In her autobiography Frame recalls a Chinese family visiting her father and bringing 'a beautiful plant, a narcissus growing, budding and blossoming in water'. This episode is also reproduced in her story 'The Bull Calf'. [Frame, Janet. To the Is-land: An Autobiography: Volume One. Auckland, Century Hutchinson, 1982: (chap 25) 199.]

33. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. III.1, line 94.

34. Isaiah, 40.6.

Copyright Ian Richards, 2004. This article was originally published in book form in Dark Sneaks In: Essays on the Short Fiction of Janet Frame, Wellington, Lonely Arts Publishing, 2004.

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