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Suffering has been an insistent presence in Janet Frame's short fiction, and it is the exploration of suffering which seems to inform 'The Day of the Sheep', one of Frame's early works published in her first collection, The Lagoon and Other Stories.(115) 'The Day of the Sheep' aims to present the mind of a woman in a situation where unhappiness seems inevitable: a life trapped in the vaguely suburban poverty of a South Island town, which is complemented by the woman's more explicitly conveyed poverty of spirit. Like all of the other characters in her story, the woman is restless and longs to be somewhere else. 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart', on the other hand, is one of Frame's later works and deals with suffering more obliquely. It was first published in The New Yorker and then as the title-story in a book of Frame's selected short fiction.(116) 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' presents a tourist, visiting an American museum, who witnesses a spinsterly schoolteacher placed in a situation that reduces her to panic. In this story the schoolteacher, a minor character, is the one who suffers. Instead of examining suffering from within a protagonist who looks out at a callous world, Frame examines it from the observations of others who look into, or choose to ignore, the state of an anguished character's mind. The result appears, at first glance, to be a different type of story from the earlier work. 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' also seems to be based on something like a real experience. Michael King notes of a trip by Frame to America in 1967: 'It was in the Philadelphia Natural History Museum that she witnessed the lesson in snake-handling that became the subject for the story'.(117)
The first sentence of 'The Day of the Sheep' indicates regret for something that cannot be helped. It has rained and Nance, a housewife, has seen her hopes for drying her laundry dashed. The second sentence extends the focus of her thoughts from the essential mystery of the weather--today is a 'leafless cloudy' and thus wintry day, instead of the hoped for 'wind and sun'--into her decision that the day itself is a 'secret hard to understand.' The ungrammatical way the writing runs on, also hard to understand, makes it clear that the narrative is located within the secret province of Nance's mind. Frame's narrative strategy will be to follow the psychological movement of Nance's thoughts and their interplay with her surroundings, in the manner, perhaps, of Virginia Woolf. This opening also introduces something of Nance's predicament. She wants to understand 'the coming and going of a day', and thus understand her own life, but to do so she is already reduced to hoping that her immediate environment, in the form of blackbirds, the rainwater and her backyard, will enlighten her. This also provides a useful incidental picture of the poverty of her home. But whatever message of understanding her surroundings may have the potential to offer, Nance decides that she in turn cannot comprehend it because she has 'no grammar of journeys'. She feels that living only in one place has left her with no distanced view with which to gain a sense of perspective on her world--even though the articulate language used to describe this dilemma suggests that Nance has had some education. In the same way, too, Frame's limiting of the narrative to Nance's mind gives the reader no distance from which to view Nance and her predicament. This is inherently confusing, and no more so for the reader than in the opening paragraph, where Nance uses the third person three times to describe herself. This form of self-objectification clearly suggests a state of alienation; but also, to the disconcerted reader, it may imply something like incipient madness. The unusually active verbs Nance assigns to the blackbirds, rainwater and backyard, in the forlorn hope that they can communicate to her, also suggest a dangerous mix of loneliness and instability.
In the next paragraph Nance focuses her dissatisfaction on her backyard, her thoughts continuing to set a scene. Whether that scene is genuinely bleak or merely homely is difficult for the reader to judge objectively, but plainly Nance feels that it is bad. She wonders why her backyard is suffocating'--the epithet is almost hidden from herself between two more ordinary dissatisfactions, 'small' and 'untidy'--and she sees this as another mystery. In fact, three hints as to the answer hang on the clothesline before Nance, all of which she notices but from which she nevertheless takes no inference: her husband Tom (his underpants), her marriage to him (the sheets) and Nance's own domestic pride (her best tablecloth).(118) As with the first paragraph, much of the second is taken up by a long final sentence in which Nance's thoughts drift into free-association. She wants to escape her current misery. Nance hopes she and Tom will 'go some other place'--it is not important where. Nance considers the countryside, perhaps in fact her own first choice though she imagines it is Tom's; but next, when she thinks of Tom winning the lottery (Tatts), she fantasises about owning a stylishly urban, flat-roofed house. She decides Tom is 'going on and on to' a prize in the lottery, her language sublimating the expression 'going on and on about' into something more hopeful. The long sentence and the paragraph end with her almost coming face to face with reality: her husband has a menial job at the local dye works. But Nance decides that the job is temporary ('just now'), and then her mind moves more hopefully once more to the job's only perk: Tom brings home handkerchiefs pilfered from the pockets of the coats he receives to dye new colours.
Even this small advantage pricks Nance's conscience, and she recalls asking Tom if this is dishonest. The question breaks into the narrative in direct speech, reflecting the way it breaks into Nance's consciousness. She remembers Tom's reply in detail and she tries to use it to convince herself, as a defence against her own sense of guilt. Nevertheless, Tom's self-justification, that he hasn't had a holiday in two years, is not a defence but merely a confirmation of the lowliness of his position. Out of loyalty to her husband and also in order to maintain her hopes for self-betterment, Nance tries to think of the pilfering as Tom successfully standing up for himself. But she cannot hide from herself the meagreness of the results, 'a small anonymous pile of men's handkerchiefs'. The adjectives used suggest the depth of her dissatisfaction: 'small' (Tom does not steal many), 'anonymous' (even now in Tom's possession, they do not feel as if they belong to anyone), and 'men's' (they are for Tom only). But this line of thinking is selfish and melancholy, and Nance immediately evades it with a cheery generalisation and then a cliche--manipulating the word 'funny' from its sense of the strange into its other sense of the amusing.
Nance enters her wash-house to empty out her blue laundry-liquid.(119) She is also, by having used a generalisation and a cliche in an attempt to cheer herself up, seeking to empty out her own blue feelings. Such curious literalism, arising from intense contemplation of the potential meanings in words, is a particularly common feature of Frame's early stories. Nance has forgotten to empty out the laundry water, even though she has done her laundry sufficiently earlier in the day to expect it to be dry by now. Her absentmindedness is another possible indication of instability--certainly of unhappiness. But Nance is distracted yet again, this time by an event. A sheep, which has presumably wandered off from a farm on the edge of the town, has taken refuge in her wash-house. (To increase the credibility of this incident, Frame never reveals the name or size of the town Nance lives in--merely, later, that Nance sees it as a city and that it is in the South Island.) Nance feels sorry for the sheep. She immediately sees it as clumsy, 'shy anxious' and 'not knowing which way to turn', subconsciously projecting her own feelings onto the animal. However, her next reaction is to shoo it away. These are Nance's first genuine words in direct speech in the story (her previous exchange with Tom was a memory), because such is her isolation that this is her first communication with another creature. The repeated capitalisation of 'Shoo' suggests a certain vehemence.
Why Nance reacts by refusing shelter to the sheep is made clear in the next paragraph, which returns to her thoughts: people hate seeing their own weakness in others. Nance starts to scorn the sheep as 'scared and stupid', and offers two explanations for this to herself. The first is that sheep never get anywhere, regardless of their actions. Whether standing still or being energetic, they achieve nothing in their lives. The second is that sheep are restless and always wanting to be somewhere else. Nance does not seem to notice any logical contradiction in her notion that sheep manage to get nowhere and yet do not stay 'where they're put'. Moreover, her case thus far consists merely of stereotypical generalisations about sheep, with no condemnation of this particular animal.(120) Logic hardly matters, however, because the sheep is not really being observed--from the start Nance has been projecting her own confused feelings onto the creature. Just as, in the opening paragraph, she objectified herself in the third person and provoked self-pity, so once more she objectifies herself in projecting her feelings onto the sheep, and this provokes self-hatred. And hatred is not Nance's only reaction. She notes the danger in restlessness, since sheep which wander 'get lost in bogs and creeks and down cliffs'. Her unacknowledged case against this particular sheep, perhaps, is that it seems so far to have avoided harm in its wandering escape. Subconsciously, Nance is jealous.
Nance has to shoo the sheep again, an indication that it does not want to move and also that she is determined. The paragraph presenting the sheep's sad departure consists of a single sentence. The pathos in the initial portrayal of the sheep as 'Scared muddy and heavy', and in the carefully evocative language showing it first reluctantly leaving the wash-house and then panicky as it moves faster out towards the street, suggests the sentence begins with the narrator objectively describing events. However, since the sheep's departure is necessarily presented from Nance's point of view, this pathos may also indicate something of her regret or guilt. The second half of the sentence, with the sheep out of Nance's sight, moves clearly into Nance's mind as she imagines the reactions of other people who see the animal run by. She imagines this in cliched terms: 'people stopping to stare and say well I declare'. Then she feels the need to explain their reaction, redundantly, as 'you never see a sheep in the street'. Nance's use of cliche is a symptom of her reluctance to imagine the other people's behaviour realistically, a way of evading the thought of other people reacting to the sheep as she has just done herself. It also suggests an evasion of any intimation that some people might react differently, with concerned pity. Similarly, Nance's unnecessary explanation to herself that everyone will think the sheep is out of place suggests a need for reassurance that hers has been the appropriate response to the animal's appearance. In further defence Nance's mind then returns to something that could not be helped, the rain on her drying laundry--significantly, in the first paragraph, this came as an expression of deep regret. The weather is a mystery, as was the appearance of the sheep; but Nance wonders next why the sheep came and where from, and this helps her to forget her rejection of it while at the same time pretending to concern.
There were sheep in Nance's rural childhood, and she begins to remember them. At the same time, in parenthesis, she collects herself sufficiently to go into the wash-house and empty out the laundry water. As she does so, she feels a sudden and to some extent illogical shame that her already-used laundry water contains a lot of dirt. This is partly the result of a domestic pride that makes her conclude she should do the laundry more often. But in this case it can also be read as a sublimated shame over rejecting the sheep, a shame which is then dispelled through a question that answers itself ('why is everything always dirty') with its implication that this is just in the nature of things. Nance focuses on sheep again, and on walking behind a flock with her father while helping drive them to fresh pasture. This is in implicit contrast to her driving a sheep away from her wash-house. She recalls having a comfortable physical connection with the animals in her childhood, so that their warm droppings ended up between her toes. Her father, in easy control, was 'powerful and careless' nearby. Significantly for Nance's current sense of guilt, it was he, not Nance, who was responsible for the management of the sheep by giving orders to the working dogs; and Nance remembers the dogs not as generalised animals but as individuals with their own names. Plainly, this is a memory of a happy time. The rich detail and the vivid language in which it is expressed contrast noticeably with the fragmented, thin description of Nance's backyard at the story's start. Indeed, the only other object in the story described with comparable attention to detail is Nance's much-desired, flat-roofed house.
Like dreams, memories often communicate their psychological significance through symbolic imagery, and Nance's childhood memory does so through a complex pattern of essentially religious symbolism. In the past, Nance's father has controlled everything. Capitalised as in the Bible, 'my Father' is comparable to a 'powerful and careless' God who is now absent (later in the story, observed as 'a powerful father', he is not capitalised). Father's effective command as he drove his sheep was 'Way Back Out'. But tempting as this memory may be to Nance, Father's absence means he offers no way back out of her current predicament. For when she was living as a child under the control of her God-like father, Nance was, in effect, a sheep herself; but now, as an adult, she feels she exemplifies the lost sheep of Biblical parable. She is waiting for some Good Shepherd to redeem her. Unfortunately for Nance, the only candidate for Good Shepherd in her adult life is her husband Tom, to whom her mind moves after thinking 'Way Back Out'. But Tom is clearly an all-too-ordinary person like herself. At the end of the paragraph depicting her childhood memory, Nance returns to her familiar pattern of wanting to escape from suffering. She repeats her hope that Tom and she will 'go some other place', and it is now clear that her language is sublimating the familiar description of Heaven, as 'a better place', into a more readily attainable, secular version. Exiled from the innocent Eden of her childhood, looking for Heaven, Nance and Tom now seem in a position similar to Adam and Eve. Of course, it is illogical for Nance to think of Tom both as a possible Good Shepherd and as a partner to her exiled Eve, but psychological symbolism seldom follows logic absolutely. Indeed, this contradiction may be near the heart of Nance's dissatisfaction with her husband. Nance then claims that 'Tom and me will get out of here', but the words are only an ineffectual echo of her father's 'Way Back Out'. Furthermore, the language in which Nance expresses her desire to escape is peculiarly non-grammatical after the poetic reminiscence of her childhood, including the use of the same non-grammatical expression ('go some other place') that she employed in the story's second paragraph. This echoed phrase suggests at once an obsessive and a deteriorating state of mind.
That Nance has lived in the countryside before coming to live in town is crucial to the story. The nostalgia which Nance feels for her rural childhood helps illuminate her present unhappiness. All the characters in the story, including Nance, express their unhappiness as restlessness about the place they are in--but Nance has already experienced moving decisively from one place to another, only to find that she is worse off. Her current poverty is underlined when she dries her hands on an apron made of sack. She tries to cheer herself with a fatalistic, 'That's that', but she immediately starts fantasising about a flat-roofed house again, this time even more elaborately than before. The details in Nance's fantasy about the house help convey what she feels is missing from her life. Her previous fantasy stressed personal privacy and culture: blinds down and a piano in the front room. This time she imagines romance and comfort: shiny bed-covers, a fireplace and a picture of moonlight. In fact, Nance was no wealthier during her childhood than she is now--her memory was of walking in bare feet with sheep dung between her toes--but plainly she feels the move into town should have given her a better life than it has. Nostalgia can be a cover for some deeper emotion, and as Nance moves from the backyard into the house and the story reaches its halfway point, a repeated detail serves as a reminder of her inflated domestic pride. The wet tablecloth on the washing line is Nance's 'best' tablecloth, so she has another. Yet without it she dreads the possibility of having to put a good face on things for visitors. Such pride is the root cause of her inability to accept her present life. It was no accident that Nance projected feelings of going 'round and round and getting nowhere' onto the sheep in the wash-house, and of always wanting to be someplace else, and no surprise that these projected feelings provoked self-hatred.
Having outlined the nature of Nance's suffering, Frame uses the second half of the story to examine whether there can be any real escape from it. The second half opens with the appearance of Nance's cousin, Nora, although Nance's dislike of her cousin makes her feel that Nora is not a real visitor.(121) For Nora has done the things that Nance desires to do: she has travelled and had adventures. Nance's suppressed jealousy can be inferred when she imagines Nora's thoughts about catching the bus at six o'clock: 'I must be quick it is terrible to miss something.' A further reason for Nance's jealousy is revealed next: Nora has already escaped from marriage twice, once by widowhood and again recently by separation. Finally, a third reason for Nance's dislike of her cousin arises, once more derived from hating to see one's own weakness in others. Despite her travelling and her remarriage, Nora is still living at the same address in the town that she started from. Nance's earlier reaction to the wandering sheep was first scorn of her own weakness and then jealousy, and here the order of the reactions is reversed. Nance feels envy and then scorns Nora's belief that 'you must have somewhere even if you know you haven't got anywhere', which has held her cousin back.
Nance's thoughts then begin to ramble. Tom, she perceives, is similarly held back by settling for small gains, such as his stolen handkerchiefs, and by a hopeless fantasy of a sudden windfall. Nance even turns her cold eye on herself, objectifying herself in the third person as she did at the start of the story's first half. But although she thinks once more of her wet washing, the story's emblem of her domestic pride, Nance does not acknowledge its implications. Instead, her thoughts seem to move on to a characteristic self-pity, and she imagines herself 'bound' by a seemingly random list of troubles drawn from the story's first half: time, the weather (in the form of the burning sun since the rain has stopped), the sheep and the day. Nora may live 'everywhere and nowhere', but Nance feels bound by her misfortune to being only 'nowhere', like the lost sheep. The troubles listed in this line of thought indicate mostly the harm in such self-pity: everyone is a victim of time; the weather is impersonal (only Albert Camus's existentialist hero Meursault famously blamed the sun for his troubles); Nance may identify with the lost sheep but it was she who turned it away to nowhere; and Nance's inability to understand 'the coming and going of a day' at the story's start reflected, above all, her inability to come to terms with her own life.(122) On a second reading, however, Nance may be more honest here than perhaps she intends to be. Each element (time, the burning sun's heat, and the 'sheep and day that are nowhere') can be related to the nostalgic memory of childhood to which she is, indeed, unhappily 'bound'.
Nora is thus introduced through Nance's largely self-serving thoughts. These also work as a bridge, covering a change in time and space. The second half of the story takes place in the early evening inside the home. Nora's direct speech establishes her position in the living-room, while nearby Nance (in what must be a small house) is putting Tom's meal on the table. In the mid-1950s linguists began to focus their interest on middle-class English usage, often called 'U and Non-U', but Frame anticipates this by a decade by having Nora use the New Zealand middle-class words 'sofa' for couch and 'dinner' for tea. This choice of language implies a certain haughtiness, despite Nora's professed attempt at fitting in. Nance's reaction is to focus on the dirt and try ineffectually to keep up with Nora.(123) She apologises for the house's 'fearful muddle', using a euphemism and copying Nora's middle-class language, while spreading the blame for the mess from herself to a plural 'we'. Unfortunately, this attempt at competitive gentility is spoiled when Nora picks up a newspaper and discovers that it is not today's but an old edition. Nora then begins a speech about having been in the North Island with her husband, Peter, from whom she has just separated.(124) She and Peter argued, because he wanted her to sell the house she has been in for most of her life and live with him in the North Island. Nora refused to sell, feeling that 'it's my home, I live there.' She does not want to give up her home's security, though it is the habit of living in the house that is uppermost in her mind and in her terms of argument. Nora claims, reasonably, that she asked Peter, 'did you marry me for myself or for my house'. But she fails to notice how Peter on his part might have felt, that in so vehemently refusing to sell her South-Island house she was refusing to commit herself to their relationship.
Nance's reaction at hearing her own desires for escape and reasons for inertia displayed so baldly is not sympathy but an increased dislike. She looks at Nora's outer appearance, her clothes and hairstyle, both of which seem desirable (perhaps, too, Nance recalls her spoiled attempt at playing the middle-class hostess), but she concludes that Nora's face is 'wobbly' and like a that of a horse. Nevertheless, Nora has come for sympathy, and so she begins her report on the argument a second time. She restates her reason for refusing to sell the house and then hints, in an extension of her attempt at finding sympathy, that she would like something to eat. The evening meal is boiled bacon, another indication of poverty, but Nora presumes on Nance and receives some. In a middle-class social tactic, Nora tries to show that she does not want any special treatment by insisting that she eat her share on the sofa--though she then returns to the topic of not selling the house, to elicit further sympathy. She asks straight out if Nance thought she was right to refuse, even though it meant separation from her husband, and she finishes as she did her first speech, with: 'I live there.' Naturally, this is Nance's cue to provide her cousin with support, but instead she defers in her mind to her husband, to avoid any commitment. Nance is then distracted by contemplating Tom. He is eating--not offering any opinion of his own--while opening an envelope with the lottery results. Nance imagines a flat-roofed house once more, this time attributing to it the sort of middle-class status (garden statues) which Nora seems to have.
Prompted by this fantasy, and perhaps by Nora's description of separation from her husband, Nance's thoughts continue to remain on Tom. She would like Tom to be ambitious, thus fulfilling her dreams of keeping up with others and of his becoming her Good Shepherd. But she feels Tom's ambition is that 'No prize but first prize will do.' Any humour in this is for the reader only. Although Nance has earlier thought of Tom as 'tied up to a little pile of handkerchiefs and the prize that happens tomorrow', at this moment she needs to believe that he is 'clever and earnest'. For if Tom has none of these good qualities, then Nance can only fulfil her domestic dreams by taking action and separating from him. Thus she imagines he buys lottery tickets and steals handkerchiefs, and even coats, as his way of keeping up with others. Notions of keeping up cause her thoughts to stray to an acquaintance's desirably modern house, but she evades thinking of this further by resorting to a cliche, as she did earlier in the story. Tom, she now decides, 'is go-ahead'. But the only example Nance can find for this is a minor prize Tom has won some time past in a radio quiz-show. Even the prize has now grown shabby. When Nance first recalls the question Tom answered on the radio, she thinks of something impossibly difficult: Tom named the distances of each planet from the sun. Then she remembers that Tom merely named the planets. Musing next on the sun's distance from herself, Nance comes by association to the brink of uncomfortably contemplating her current isolation, and so she evades this. She thinks of the rain, the blackbirds (both of which earlier offered her no comprehensible message) and then, finally, the wandering sheep.
But this reverie is interrupted by Nora speaking once more. Frame makes it clear that Nora is speaking by supplying a brief narrative description of movement, 'Nora leans forward', suggesting that this movement breaks Nance's train of thought. The avoidance of 'says' or 'said' in 'The Day of the Sheep' helps to build up the illusion that this is not a story with a distanced narrator but rather a narrative located in Nance's mind, as does the use of the present tense. Nance has earlier deferred to her husband about Nora's refusal to sell the house only by looking at him and becoming lost in thought. She has forgotten to speak. Consequently, Nora is talking to Nance for a third time about the house and hoping for a sympathetic opinion.(125) Nance usually thinks in cliches to evade unpleasant ideas, and so her reaction this time is to speak with a cliche in order to avoid becoming further entangled in Nora's misfortune. She quotes Jiminy Cricket from Walt Disney's 1940 film Pinocchio: 'always let your conscience be your guide.'(126) She does so consciously, as the next paragraph has her noting in parenthesis, to herself, that old sayings or modern examples of them (like Jiminy Cricket's) are a useful form of disguise. In fobbing Nora off, Nance is refusing to help her in just the same way that she earlier refused to help the lost sheep in the wash-house. The cliche with which she does this, in a heavy narrative irony, counsels staying true to oneself. Fortunately for Nance, her ruse is successful and Nora is willing to interpret this advice as support.
The next paragraph helps explain why Nance is so uninterested in her cousin's separation--it is not news. Furthermore, Nora's letter to Nance (which first told of the separation) touched a nerve when Nora wrote, 'you and Tom are lucky you get on so well together no fuss about where to live'. It is even possible that reading this letter has exacerbated Nance's restlessness with her own life to its current pitch. The expression Nora used earlier to mitigate getting herself some boiled bacon from Nance, 'no fuss', is the same as that in her letter. In the letter she used it to make light of Nance and Tom's relationship and to emphasise her own need for sympathy. Nance recognises this method of using cliche, and so she says to herself, in yet another contemplative soliloquy on her own life, 'No fuss but lost'. She thinks with dissatisfaction of the dirty state of her house and she views her domestic efforts as ineffectual. Earlier Nance projected her feelings onto the wandering sheep, seeing it as 'going round and round getting nowhere' and now she sees herself directly, and repetitively, as moving about in the same way. She feels her little domestic journeys, back and forth inside her house, are 'irrelevant', since they do not solve her larger problems. Sadly for Nance, her reaction to unaccomplished chores tends to be not an onset of renewed effort but an even greater introspection. She feels that she is going backward always, through nostalgia, to her farming childhood--though, significantly, she does not pursue the implications of this in relation to her current misery. Elements of her previous memory of childhood reappear, notably her father's suggestive cry of 'Way Back Out'. And a new element has been added: the sun. (Previously Nance remembered only the heat.) When thinking of Tom naming the planets in a radio quiz, Nance thought of the sun's chief characteristic as being 'terribly far away', and this may explain why it has been subconsciously inserted into her thoughts about her childhood.
At this point, prompted by her childhood memories, Nance remembers to tell Nora about the wandering sheep. In effect, she glosses over her rejection of her cousin with the story of her earlier rejection of the animal. Nance refers to the sheep as a personalised 'he' and admits that she does not know where the animal lived, perhaps indicating some residual guilt over rejecting it. But an ordinary sheep is more likely to be a feminine ewe than a ram, something a person from Nance's country background would be well aware of. Nance's spoken words, 'I chased him away', shortly after thinking about Tom and the radio quiz, may indicate a Freudian slip. For a brief moment her relationship with Nora is reversed and it is Nance who is seeking sympathetic support. She receives it when Nora laughs. Nora acts as if the sheep's appearance was outlandish, but she then goes on to imply her sympathy for the rejected animal through contrast--she expresses gratitude that she, Nance and Tom have the security of somewhere to live. Nance agrees with her, even finishing up by echoing Nora's laugh. But in the light of her unhappy restlessness, Nance's imitative expression of gratitude at having somewhere to live is really a defeat. She claims she is glad not to be 'a lost sheep' herself, even though she originally saw herself in the sheep in her wash-house and she has been explicitly thinking of herself and Tom as lost only moments before. And in fact, by electing to stay in one place, Nance's situation has become worse than that of the lost sheep. The animal she forced to move on still has a chance of finding a redemptive happiness somewhere else.
Tom, meanwhile, has again failed to win the lottery. It was several paragraphs back that he began opening his envelope to check the lottery results. This indicates just how slowly 'The Day of the Sheep' proceeds (and how close it comes to the sense of stillness that characterises the writing of Virginia Woolf) when the actions that impinge on Nance's consciousness are interspersed with passages of her free-associative thoughts. Nance observes Tom putting the envelope up beside household items which serve as emblems of the narrowness of his life to come and of a fixation on gambling through the horse races. Tom then comments, with the narrative's irony heavy once more, 'I'm damned'. The distraction of the radio news at six o'clock is all that he can suggest as escape. Six o'clock is also the cue for Nora to leave by catching her bus. Like the lost sheep, Nora has been rejected by Nance and, also like the lost sheep, in moving on Nora still has a chance of finding happiness.(127) Thus Nance's thoughts about Nora come full circle and she jealously thinks, 'Quick, it is terrible to lose something', in an echo of her jealous thoughts when Nora arrived ('quick it is terrible to miss something'). Nance's thoughts often seem to circle and repeat in the story, displaying her obsessive and unstable mind, but also indicating a state of mental paralysis which reflects Nance's paralysed situation. For while this story's technique seems to come from Virginia Woolf, its theme appears derived from James Joyce's paralysed citizenry in Dubliners. Nora's search for happiness has failed in the North Island and the South Island and even in Nance's own home. Nance has scorned these attempts, but her repeated observance of this begins by substituting the word 'lose' for 'miss'. It is an unconscious change. Nance is nostalgically convinced that she had happiness in childhood and has lost it, even though this is what paralyses any move on her part towards searching for further happiness.
Nora's parting words begin with a return to the middle-class haughtiness she displayed on arrival. Perhaps she suspects Nance's hostility. In any case, the second half of her parting speech contains a direct criticism of Nance's appearance. But while this may appear a malicious Parthian shot, it may equally be prompted by a genuine consideration for Nance's welfare, albeit expressed in somewhat shallow, middle-class terms. Nora wants Nance to come visit and to cheer herself up by improving her own appearance. And in fact the expression of concern which Nora chooses to describe Nance's hair, 'at the end of its tether', could just as well apply to Nance's mental condition. Regardless of Nora's ultimately malicious or considerate intent, Nance thinks of her cousin's comment sardonically, as 'Here is the news.' Nance's goodbye is, accordingly, fast and not heartfelt. In contrast, the next and final paragraph is all heartfelt, a goodbye to the reader and perhaps also to Nance's sense of her own sanity. The paragraph is an extended outpouring of self-pity. Nance now feels that she herself, rather than her immediate environment, is 'small and cramped'--she has become a mere extension of her bleak surroundings. She feels a renewed shame that her house is untidy and dirty, and she starts to blame herself; but she soon moves on to wondering 'where am I living that I'm not neat and tidy with a perm.' Nance has returned to expressing her dissatisfaction with her poverty and with her life as restlessness. She wishes, in a generalisation that clearly applies to herself, that she could wash her own life clean like laundry and start afresh. But her description of the drying sun as 'far away' makes it clear that she believes this is beyond her, a view reinforced by the unacknowledged likelihood that her laundry is still wet. Again Nance thinks enviously of Nora, linking her cousin's travels to a superior knowledge of life. But much as Nance would like to travel and escape her life, she acknowledges that she will not do so without the certainty of knowing 'where you would live at the end'. She will not leave Tom. There is no escape.
Nance's final thoughts focus once more from an impersonal and general 'you' to a more inclusive 'we', as she acknowledges that everyone, including herself, feels out of place. She even goes so far as to think, 'we're always in other places', implicitly acknowledging that, in her case, she is a perpetual victim of her own nostalgia for a happier childhood. She next claims that everyone is a lost sheep. For Nance, though, her paralysis means she has none of the faint hope embodied in the image of the wandering animal. In fact she has already driven the lost but hopeful sheep away, literally out of her wash-house as well figuratively as out of her emotional life. It is this last severing of all hope, the understanding that she is not lost but actually trapped, which Nance will not yet relinquish. This is presumably because, no matter how self-piteous she may feel, what remains of her sanity truly hangs on that saving illusion. Thus, in a state of denial, Nance concludes that her days still contain wintry secrets which she cannot understand, and that she cannot understand each day's sun, her own emblem of isolation.
In The Golden Bowl, despite having just ingeniously arranged a tryst, Charlotte Stant can still remark to her lover, 'Ah, for things I mayn't want to know, I promise you shall find me stupid'.(128) The self-pitying final sentence of 'The Day of the Sheep' returns Nance's thoughts and predicament to the opening of the story, where she felt regret for something that could not be helped. In the story's confusing first paragraph Nance wanted to understand her life, to grasp 'the coming and going of a day', and she sought the answer unsuccessfully from her immediate environment: the blackbird, the rainwater and the backyard. She concluded that she could not understand what they tried to communicate to her because she had no experience of travel. This is now revealed as an elaborate defence-mechanism. In fact, Nance has already travelled from the country to the town, and this has not delivered the improved lifestyle she desires. Fear of moving again means that she is now trapped, and so Nance will not read the meaning of the signs in her surroundings because she does not want to face their truth. Nance felt she had no distanced perspective on her world, no 'grammar of journeys'. In fact, she will not look beyond her own self-pity. Thus she focuses only on surface dirt, not on the method for its cleaning, and only on the unexpectedness of the weather, not on the logic that a winter day (indicated by 'leafless' trees) may have rain. Nance wants to understand herself, but the closest she can come to this in her denial is self-objectification: trying to see herself from outside through what is really her own limiting perspective. Paradoxically, only Nance's saving belief that her life is a secret which she cannot understand will allow her to continue with life and stay sane.
It is remarkable for any young author to produce a story as sophisticated and nuanced as 'The Day of the Sheep', but when the intellectual isolation of Frame's early life in the South Island is taken into account, the story's achievement says much about her talent. Despite receiving little assistance and even less encouragement, it is clear that she read widely and studied her models with care. 'The Day of the Sheep' owes a great deal to a thorough reading of psychology and Modernist fiction, for it is constructed as a Modernist story. Its prose attempts to depict a character from within. The story's poetic form demands the sort of close reading which was espoused by critics of Modernism. Its imagery must be interpreted, its unconscious psychological revelations must be noticed and its elaborate symbolic pattern must be teased out--without these efforts from the reader, 'The Day of the Sheep' offers little more than a sketch in which almost nothing happens. From the beginning of her career, too, Frame shows a remarkable ability to advance an argument, paragraph by paragraph, through the manipulation of images. This may have come from an attentive reading of poetry, such as the works of Shakespeare, Blake and Yeats. Young writers of talent typically begin their careers by producing strong imitations of then-dominant forms, which they go on to refine and advance by discovering their own subject and style. 'The Day of the Sheep' is not a perfect work. The story's psychological movement sometimes seems forced. The trope of the lost sheep is hardly new, despite its New Zealand twist. The twin causes of Nance's unhappiness, nostalgia and domestic pride, have no logical connection outside of her individual case, and so they do not resonate off each other in the story. Perhaps in compensation, Frame never misses an opportunity to wring another meaning from an image or to repeat a phrase. The patterning of imagery can approach the baroque: the story's birds appear to be black so that they may match with the mud and puddles of the backyard, and they seem to produce onomatopoeic sounds twice in the story so that they can be, symmetrically, in each half. At this early point in her career, Frame lacks the confidence to locate the internal dynamics in her story which will create their own resonances.
A major problem for 'The Day of the Sheep' is the unusual discrepancy between the reader's first impression of the story and what a close reading reveals. On a first reading, accepting the protagonist's point of view, the reader is likely to feel that Nance is a beleaguered woman, suffering in a cruel, brutish environment, a victim not least of her own sensitivity. The persistent whine in the story may even be heard, mistakenly, not just as Nance's voice but also as the author's tone. After a close reading, however, Nance seems anything but a victim. She is the self-pitying, self-hating creator of her own misery, a person who withholds help from others. The mental instability Nance appears to display is no longer likely to elicit the reader's compassion; it seems more like a case of existentialist bad faith. Thus, Frame's analysis of the deeper cause of her protagonist's dilemma tends to work against the sympathetic rendering of a troubled character which she is nevertheless clearly trying to convey on the story's surface. When seen from outside and then when viewed from within, as it were, Nance seems almost two different people. This reflects Frame's basic uncertainty about her protagonist. On the one hand she exhibits a strong desire to depict human suffering and identify with its victims, and on the other hand she has an equal determination to discover a neurotic source for that suffering and to analyse its mechanism of dysfunction.
Confusion also extends into the purpose of a story like 'The Day of the Sheep'. The purpose of Joyce's Dubliners was essentially Naturalistic: Irish society causes paralysis and failure, which leads to suffering. His stories aim to indict the norms of a society which makes all its citizens miserable. Certainly, Frame's characters typically have to cope with a world of material poverty and social conformity that seems to guarantee misery. Furthermore, in 'The Day of the Sheep' and in Frame's fiction generally, characters are atomised; no one helps anyone else.(129) But Frame seems to intend going one step further than a simple indictment of New Zealand society. The critic Bruce King has noted of Post-colonial literature: 'Where efficiency and material accomplishment are the main social values and where the crude often succeed, failure becomes spiritual success.'(130) Unlike Joyce's suffering Dubliners, who are presented as ubiquitous in society and who simply suffer as a result of society's norms, Frame's suffering New Zealanders are presented as a failed and separate social minority who are, nevertheless, to be seen as in some way superior to those around them who do not fail and suffer. For suffering is linked by Frame to her diagnosis of imaginative insight (just as King describes it), though whether as cause or symptom is never entirely clear, since suffering and insight are presented as mutually reinforcing. This can be a source of confusion: does Nance learn anything worthwhile through the heightened perceptions caused by her unhappiness? Or would she be better off if she were more like the other characters? But what is clear is that, because of the insight available to them, it is outsiders like Nance who matter in Frame's New Zealand, even if their individual states of mind are subject to critical analysis, as in 'The Day of the Sheep'. And if society's outsiders are insightful, somewhat akin to members of the elect, then its majority members must be obtuse and as much under indictment as the norms of the society itself. Through what is essentially a form of classification, therefore, the marginalized are always central in Frame's fiction; and this can be seen an act of subversive liberation, since it involves a radical critique of the majority society's values and its members, or as a form of inverse snobbery, since the importance of those designated as marginalized is never subjected to doubt or to its own analysis.(131)
But in 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart', one of Frame's later stories, these difficulties are resolved. The narrative appears distanced from its subject matter, the imagery is controlled, and the subtle and complex story seems almost to tell itself. 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is presented in the first person, yet its tone is clearly more detached than is the case in most of Frame's third-person stories. The reason for this appears on display from the opening sentences, which provide essentials of the narrator's character. The simple start, 'I looked at the notice', introduces someone who is observant of and distanced from the scene--a tourist, in fact. The narrator wonders whether she can fit some extra sightseeing into her time available, but she does so without any obvious anxiety.(132) This is because she knows her train leaves Philadelphia in one hour, so that, despite being away from home, she feels in control of her environment. The incidental details place the story, but the narrator does not bother to explain her background or history, and she remains unnamed. She can choose to withhold this information because it is she who is in control of the narrative, which proceeds in properly grammatical sentences as the narrator tells her story, coolly depicting a situation she observes from the outside. Storytellers use suspense, and this is built up when the narrator's wondering gaze moves away from the notice and she describes a huge, beating heart. But she is careful to explain quickly that the heart is in an exhibition hall and then, through the use of an inclusive 'you' and an onomatopoeic 'thum-thump', to put the reader in the setting. Everyone would like to see inside the human heart within his or her available lifetime, but Frame does not proceed to generalise the story in this way. The dangerously obvious symbolism of the heart needs no pressing. In any case Frame's ostensible intention is not, as she usually does in her fiction, to develop images from objects in the protagonist's environment which have had an impact on that character's consciousness and to use these as motifs to advance story and theme. At the story's deliberately non-poetic opening the narrator appears to be merely a framing device for setting up the plot.
In contrast to the almost icy control and detachment of the narrator, the heart's popularity means that it is in a state of use and disorder. The narrator observes that children play together within the heart--in their innocence they manage to 'match their cries to the heart's beating'--but they are too involved to stand still and watch the exhibit as they really should, and so sometimes, the narrator notes, they have to be controlled. She also feels that through over-use the heart has been 'punished' by wear and dirt. It is in such poor condition that even the notice advertising its entrance, which is now explicitly linked to the story's title, is askew. This repeated mention of the entrance-notice brings the narrative opening (and the narrator's observing mind) round in a circle and rounds off its main point: maintaining control and tidiness is important to the narrator, rather than involvement. She has been tempting herself with the heart at the Franklin Institute, a 'fascinating' distraction, but she is being put off by the disorder. In fact, since she has waited long enough to observe that the heart's entrance is sometimes roped off when there are 'too many children about' who put the heart to over-use, she may have been hesitating--her mind circles between notice and exhibit--for some time. Next she remembers a pleasant alternative, that she also wants to see the Natural Science Museum, and so her thinking returns once more to manageable problems of locations and scheduling. Realising that she has to choose, she does not let herself agonise but makes a calm decision: the journey through the heart will be 'Later'. But this act of what businesspeople call prioritising may be somewhat of a rationalisation. The narrator's unconscious concern is to avoid disorder and to keep her own mental house tidy. Even her choice of visiting the National Science Museum is made, as she chooses to describe it to herself, in order to 'catch up on American flora and fauna.'
Leaving the heart she has observed so carefully, the narrator moves her story swiftly to the Hall of North America in the Natural Science Museum across the street. The new setting is described with even greater economy than the opening was, although the narrator does not find the mostly empty hall that she has expected. In three truncated statements the setting's three elements appear: children, a teacher and a museum attendant. Each sentence consists of an item quickly observed and followed by a descriptive clause or phrase. Each is not quite grammatically complete, suggesting surprise. This also implies that the narrator's customary use of carefully grammatical sentences may be a form of deliberate self-composure, through the constraints of properly composed language. Despite any surprise, however, the narrator betrays no concern, because with each sentence she discovers order. These children, the narrator notes, are not racing up and down but are sitting neatly in rows on temporary chairs. She observes that, though they are elementary-school children, they are under a teacher's control rather than simply kept behind a rope. Finally, she sees that the object of everyone's attention is not a worn and soiled exhibit but a basket, properly under the authority of a museum attendant. Just as the heart did at the story's opening, so here the basket provides a fresh touch of suspense to the new scene. This time the narrator's reaction is to want to stay on. She formulates a request in terms of propriety, not asking if she can join the group but merely, 'Is it all right for me to be here?'. Thus, despite Frame's straightforward opening, her ostensible lack of interest in developing a character's consciousness through the impact of environment, and her non-poetic style, she has--while never leaving or even straining the conventions of realism--begun a story in a setting that is not where the reader first expected it to be, told by a narrator whose self-control is not quite as easy as she first pretended it to be, and with a plot that has, in fact, yet to reveal itself. And the narrator's opening description of the heart, though it appears to be unexploited as an image, still discloses the state of her own unconscious.
The attendant is introduced through his reply to the narrator's request. He shows no particular warmth of welcome; his assent is merely 'brisk'. However, he immediately proceeds to display his one passion: snake-handling. He even speaks of it in terms of a mission's commands: 'Get the children young and teach them'. When people believe all snakes are dangerous, he goes on to explain idealistically, people want to protect themselves by killing them. Thus stereotyping gives rise to fear. The attendant aims to overcome stereotyping by influencing children when they are still too young to have developed this tendency. He will help children to see snakes patiently as individual creatures (or species), and in this way he can teach them not to be afraid.(133) The narrator's reaction is to want to watch from an undetermined distance--it is never revealed where she stands in this setting, though she is close enough to the front to hear the attendant speak to the teacher later in a 'lowered' voice. By now the narrator's reaction seems characteristic, since it is the third time she has begun to observe a situation (the previous two being the heart exhibit and the Hall of North America). The attendant declares that his basket contains a harmless grass snake, and his next words, that he will teach the children 'the feel of them', are ominous. Even his expression 'Teach the children to learn' implies a degree of force.
After the attendant, the children's teacher is also introduced. She names herself, at the attendant's cue, as 'Miss' Aitcheson. The unembellished simplicity of her self-introduction, just the two-word admission of her name, already hints at a lack of confidence, and the attendant immediately puts her under further pressure by appealing to her sense of responsibility as an educator. The teacher has to lead by example and show her children that she is not afraid of snakes. However, from the moment the teacher introduces herself as 'Miss', her unmarried status combines with the narrator's only other description of her (on first entering the hall) as 'elderly' and an impression is created in the reader's mind of a brittle, spinsterish woman. The reader, in fact, is led into an act of stereotyping, even though Miss Aitcheson is the only character with a name in the story. Moreover, the reader's stereotyping of Miss Aitcheson is not at all likely to give rise to fear. It comes from a darker knowledge: stereotypes are not always incorrect.
The narrator's acute appraisal of Miss Aitcheson as an individual follows, and this merely confirms the reader's conception. Miss Aitcheson is near to retiring--but not near enough to escape today's trial. As a city woman, the narrator decides, she clearly has no knowledge of snakes and is afraid. The narrator deduces this from observing the teacher's pale face. She concludes that Miss Aitcheson is trying hard, and mostly successfully, to cover up her fear. The narrator then wonders if the attendant and the children can see this, but the detail with which the narrator describes Miss Aitcheson's suppression of fear in her countenance suggests the answer to this question. Plainly, the narrator believes that her own powers of observation make her capable of a sympathetic understanding of Miss Aitcheson's fear, but that most likely the children and the attendant cannot manage this. The attendant even breaks in on the narrator's thoughts to insist that the snake is harmless, and the narrator coolly decides on the reason for both his lack of fear and his inability to observe it in others: 'He'd been working with snakes for years.' She then goes back to thinking about Miss Aitcheson. Starting with her own decision that Miss Aitcheson is a city woman, the narrator makes an effort to imagine the teacher's thoughts. She imagines Miss Aitcheson thinking that, despite their variety, all snakes are killers, with 'venom and victims'. She even imagines Miss Aitcheson asking herself whether, in parts of the South, 'you couldn't go into the streets for fear of the rattlesnakes?'. The obvious untruth in this expresses the narrator's imaginative understanding of the irrationality of Miss Aitcheson's fear. But in this the narrator also implies that she may understand the nature of the teacher's mind better than does Miss Aitcheson herself, and this is a foreshadowing of something that will later become clear to the reader: while observing Miss Aitcheson suppressing her anxiety, the narrator is likewise suppressing something in herself.
Miss Aitcheson's eyes then move towards the exit light, and there is a note of triumph in the narrator's insistence that, in this, 'I saw her fear.' The narrator feels that this superior knowledge is the result of her superior powers of observation and imagination, but her observing and imagining have been pure conjecture. Ultimately, her sense of superiority derives not from such powers--these too are the products of her imagination--but merely because she is still in control of her own situation and uninvolved, whereas Miss Aitcheson is in an obvious dilemma. This, and only this, is the true extent of the narrator's power. Moreover, still thinking of snakes, the narrator proceeds to describe the covered exit light as blinking and hooded, thus looking somewhat like a snake's eye. But her knowledge is actually inadequate here, as snakes do not have eyelids.(134) The narrator also observes that the children, whom she is sure can have no experience of snake-handling, are quietly 'waiting for the drama to begin'. Like her they are uninvolved, and so only one or two of them look frightened when the snake is finally brought out of the basket. Frame's long sentence, describing the children, the appearance of the snake and finally the attitude of the attendant, deliberately loses its main event (the swift placing of the snake around Miss Aitcheson's neck) in its syntactic centre and thus removes its drama. Miss Aitcheson is also briefly dehumanised during this event, unnamed except as 'the teacher'. Thus the sentence reflects the way in which this rapid act is already over before Miss Aitcheson can summon up the presence to resist, and also the thoughtlessly casual way in which the attendant behaves. In order to teach people without experience he has nevertheless chosen a big snake (three feet, a metre), and rather than hold it himself and let the teacher touch it, he has put it around her neck. Yet his reaction is to be 'admiring and satisfied', as if it is he who has achieved something. He even presumes to announce to the class that Miss Aitcheson is unafraid, thus putting her thoroughly on trial. With the drama having indeed begun, and with the story's plot completely established, 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' has reached its halfway point.
The second half of the story begins with a brief restatement of the teacher's predicament, which also serves as an intensifier. The narrator calmly observes the symptoms of Miss Aitcheson's fear: her rigid body and trouble breathing. The attendant insists that she is unafraid and even callously asks her for confirmation of this. At the same time, the narrator notes the power the attendant has assumed over the teacher: the narrator interprets his speech as 'pronouncing judgement on her' and interprets Miss Aitcheson's involuntary movements of resistance as 'panic'. But in fact, seeing the children watching her, remembering her responsibility as a teacher and, quite possibly, feeling some instinct of maternal protectionism, Miss Aitcheson manages to suppress these movements and even to whisper to the children that she is not frightened. Nevertheless, when she tries to make a better show of this, she speaks 'sharply', and the frustration in her suffering breaks through. The narrator again notes with a sense of triumph that she can see the teacher's fear--the narrator intensifies it this time into 'defeat and helplessness'--and she pointedly mentions that the attendant cannot see this. His single-mindedness makes him seem, to the narrator, every bit as reptilian as the snakes he loves. However, the narrator's perceptions are somewhat removed from the story's reality. The attendant is indeed insensitive; but the narrator's need to express this so strongly and her need to intensify Miss Aitcheson's fear, at a time when the teacher is coping, hint at something dark in the narrator's unconscious response--something like repressed jealousy of the attendant's new powers of control. The narrator once more makes an effort to imagine Miss Aitcheson's thoughts. In fact, the opening of the story's second half contains each of the elements from the end of the first half in reverse order. Near the close of the first half, the narrator conjectured on Miss Aitcheson's life and thoughts, then announced that she could see the teacher's fear, observed the snake round the teacher's neck and heard the attendant declare that Miss Aitcheson is unafraid. In the second half, after a fulcrum of suffering in which Miss Aitcheson stands paralysed, the narrator hears the attendant announce that the teacher is unafraid, observes the snake around the teacher's neck, declares that she can see Miss Aitcheson's fear, and then conjectures on her thoughts and then her life. Thus, in its artfulness, 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' continues to exhibit the same care with language that its opening showed. It is the same artfulness that Frame's more obviously poetic works display, although Frame has chosen not to foreground this in her story.
At first reading, the narrator's lengthy imagining of Miss Aitcheson's reaction appears to be an extended passage of vicarious sympathy. She begins her conjecture on Miss Aitcheson's thoughts from her assumption that the teacher's sharp 'Of course not' means the teacher is exasperated. Miss Aitcheson is co-operating with the attendant because he has appealed to her finer feelings, but these are in competition with her own need to keep safe. The narrator imagines that fundamentally Miss Aitcheson does not care whether others want to save snakes or not, nor whether she herself would kill or save a snake if she encountered one and could react other than instinctively. She is not in a position to indulge in this sort of compassion, since her city life already 'held enough danger to occupy her'. Imagining in greater detail, the narrator conjectures that Miss Aitcheson's life is already a struggle for survival and only likely to get worse in her lonely future. Learning to love snakes is irrelevant to her life, and at this point it is her desire for the welfare of the children that is sustaining her. And the narrator also seems to suspect (once more knowing Miss Aitcheson's mind better than does Miss Aitcheson herself) that any likely profession of finer feeling by the teacher towards the children, 'most of all the children', is really a cover for a simple pride at not exhibiting an 'outbreak of her fear' to 'everyone'--this may be all that is holding Miss Aitcheson together. Furthermore, behind the narrator's thinking is the intuition that creatures are not altruistic by instinct; they kill because they are survivors. The attendant has earlier claimed that stereotyping gives rise to fear, but in fact the opposite is true. Stereotyping and all that goes with it is an old, instinctive survival-mechanism learned from fear, because (as the reader has also intuited when first categorising Miss Aitcheson as a brittle spinster) stereotypes are not always incorrect. Only human beings whose survival is not in jeopardy can afford to take the risk of disregarding type. Those people who can indulge in compassion--the avoidance of stereotyping and the patient examination of individuals--are not the beleaguered or frightened, like Miss Aitcheson, but those who feel they are in a position of genuine self-control, like the narrator herself.
But while all this may inform the narrator's conscious thoughts, the reader is aware that there is something imposed and strained about the narrator's sense of self-control which makes it anything but genuine, and which makes her attracted to power. For though the narrator may feel that her lengthy observation and imagining of Miss Aitcheson's situation is the result of a praiseworthy compassion, it may also consist of an unconscious desire to explore every nuance of the teacher's suffering. When conjecturing on Miss Aitcheson's life, the narrator places her on the dangerous commute to a school in 'downtown Philadelphia', not to a safer, suburban school. The narrator then expands that danger in Miss Aitcheson's future life, imaging her retirement in a dangerously located apartment, and 'with no doorman'. Even the thought 'everyone knew what happened then' is insufficient, and the narrator supplies three detailed examples for herself: Miss Aitcheson being afraid to answer the door, to walk after dark, or even to carry her pocketbook. All of this conjecture is anything but compassionate at heart. All of it, from meeting a snake in 'the woods or the desert' to Miss Aitcheson's lonely and frightened retirement, concentrates on the teacher's likely helplessness and lack of control of her life, as if to bolster the narrator's own sense of self-control. But any such intimations are suppressed, and deciding that the teacher already has 'enough to think about' brings the narrator's mind back to Miss Aitcheson's present trial, with the snake around her neck. Again the narrator concentrates on the difficulty that the teacher has suppressing her fear. But, in reality, so far Miss Aitcheson has been coping well. The attendant's words, 'See, Miss Aitcheson's touching the snake. She's not afraid of it at all', break into the narrator's thoughts. The attendant is even this time naming Miss Aitcheson, whom he previously referred to only as 'teacher', in something like growing approval. To the extent that the narrator believes she feels compassion for Miss Aitcheson, the attendant's words appear insensitive and full of irony, but to the extent that the narrator subconsciously relishes seeing the teacher suffer and helpless, the attendant's words seem to induce a moment of surprise and disappointment.
With the intrusion of the attendant, the narrator ceases musing and her story returns to the immediacy of dialogue and descriptive narrative. Next begins an extended passage in which the narrator appears to observe sympathetically (but with her double motive established for the reader) the reality of Miss Aitcheson's situation, its drawn-out nature reflecting the true strain placed on the teacher's endurance. For although the attendant may have been praising Miss Aitcheson's behaviour so far, in this busy story he is already increasing his pressure on her, forcing Miss Aitcheson to touch the snake with her fingers in front of everyone. Perhaps sensing her continuing reluctance, he does this by presenting her with a fait accompli, insisting that she is already doing so. Miss Aitcheson complies. The narrator notes the detail that 'Her fingers recoiled', but Miss Aitcheson overcomes her instinctive fear and touches the snake again. The attendant, instead of offering relief, or even praise, merely repeats that Miss Aitcheson is not afraid and implies that this is normal. His actual praise is reserved for the snake, which he describes as 'beautiful'. Along with her cool observations of Miss Aitcheson under the attendant's control, for much of this passage the narrator focuses attention on the other participants who now have to deal with the snake: the children. The children do not share the attendant's single-mindedness and so the narrator sees that their faces show admiration for Miss Aitcheson's bravery. But the narrator is then quick to note that they also enjoy the tension-filled drama of waiting for the teacher's nerve to break, reflected in the story's relished repetition of 'waiting'. The narrator has no difficulty perceiving the children's attitude, although the reader now knows that this is because the children's conscious waiting is in some ways similar to the narrator's own unconscious, repressed feelings. Like the narrator, the children are still comfortably uninvolved. Also like the narrator, the children watch with the 'cruelly persistent tension' of contradictory impulses. But the contradiction in the children's attitude to Miss Aitcheson is only apparent, whereas the tension between the narrator's conscious and unconscious attitudes to Miss Aitcheson is real. Unlike the narrator, the children can wholeheartedly admire bravery and simultaneously enjoy waiting for it to fail because they are too young to understand their teacher's suffering with any truly imaginative sympathy. The 'cruelly persistent tension' they exhibit only outwardly resembles the narrator's--it is the naive cruelty of children.
In this almost palpable atmosphere, the attendant announces idealistically that the love of snakes is something that can be learned. He asks for a volunteer to touch 'teacher's snake'. The result is silence. At length a boy comes forward to touch the snake. He is 'shamefaced', implying that he may have been chosen by the other children rather than a genuine volunteer. Unlike Miss Aitcheson, he cannot suppress showing his fear. The attendant cajoles the boy by suggesting, unconvincingly, that the snake is 'friendly'; the snake has done nothing so far but disregard Miss Aitcheson. More convincingly, the attendant adds that somebody else is already touching it. The boy then manages to overcome his fright and touch the snake for an instant, but because he has been unable to hide his fear and then shows his relief afterwards in running back to his seat, the other children find more pleasure in focusing on this than on his actual display of bravery. One anonymous child even plucks up the meagre courage to articulate the group's source of glee, that the boy is 'afraid of the snake'. The children are, in fact, exhibiting something like the fickle behaviour of a mob. But children are not heartless per se. At the beginning of the story a group of innocent children ran into the human-heart exhibit and could even 'match their cries to the heart's beating'. What the children's behaviour demonstrates here is that it is the growth of a wholeheartedly imaginative understanding of the suffering of others that distinguishes maturity. The children have yet to develop this capacity. Adults do not always have it. The narrator fails this test because, in her desire for self-control, she has figuratively and also literarily not entered the human heart but rather left it behind. Thus her imagination is perverse. And the attendant, for all his authority, has no imagination. He cannot imagine a fear in others that he does not feel himself.
The attendant attempts to sooth the children, although what he actually offers is his recurring belief in the necessity of not hurting snakes: 'We have to get used to them, you know.' He begins a speech on his views. In the first half of the story he attempted to argue that fear arises from learning to stereotype. But here he demonstrates the untruth of this. In a stereotypical generalisation that ignores abundant evidence beside him to the contrary and which generates not fear but callousness, he says of all adults and snakes: 'Grownups are not afraid of them'. Next the attendant erroneously insists that he understands it is the capacity to overcome fear (rather than the development of imaginative sympathy) which distinguishes adults from children, so that 'when you're small you might be afraid'. The attendant claims again that children can 'learn to love' something and, after pausing to place yet more insensitive pressure on Miss Aitcheson, he asks for someone else 'to be brave enough' to touch the snake. Eventually two girls come forward, though they do not touch the snake but only each other. They look to Miss Aitcheson for reassurance, and then they can smile at the snake and speak to it. And it is Miss Aitcheson, still suffering what the narrator now plainly describes as 'torture', who has enough imaginative sympathy to whisper to the girls that they are brave. In contrast, the attendant merely interrupts with, 'Where's the bravery when the snake is harmless?'. Despite having asked for someone to be brave enough to volunteer, he insists three times that the snake is harmless and so courage cannot apply. His theory is that if one does not stereotype the snake as dangerous then one will not be afraid, and so bravery is unnecessary. The attendant is incapable of understanding that it is precisely because the children, and also the teacher, must overcome the built-in stereotyping of their instinctive survival-mechanism that touching even this harmless snake requires a great deal of courage. The attendant's well-intentioned but single-minded behaviour is a failure of imagination that results in a form of cruelty. His is not the na´ve cruelty of a child, nor the repressed cruelty of the narrator, but the insensitive cruelty of a fanatic. He claims six times in the story as a whole that Miss Aitcheson is not afraid, because this fits his theory, even though from the moment he puts the snake around her neck Miss Aitcheson is scarcely able to breathe. These three varieties of cruelty--the narrator's, then the children's and then the attendant's--are established with their mechanisms on display in the story's second half.
At this point the snake, which despite being the focus of the story has done nothing, exhibits some interest in the person who has been handling it for so long. For reasons of its own, it pushes its face into Miss Aitcheson's. The teacher's nerve breaks. She throws the snake to the floor. The language of the sentence which describes this reflects the instinctive nature of her act. Its long list of actions uses unthinking stock language, if not quite cliches, and the majority of verbs have no subject. Miss Aitcheson only appears as an individual again at the end of the sentence, when 'she collapsed into a small canvas chair beside the Bear Cabinet and started to cry.' The narrator's reaction to this crisis, characteristically, is not to help but merely to want to disengage her attention, under the guise of propriety. She watches the children and then the attendant. The children continue to exhibit the contradictory behaviour of a mob, laughing and crying. The attendant, true to his fanatical type, is only interested in the welfare of the snake. But then the narrator returns to observing Miss Aitcheson's situation. Subconsciously, the narrator will not deny herself the sight of another person who has lost self-control. She sees that the teacher is 'recovering', yet under the guise now of pity the narrator insists that Miss Aitcheson is 'helplessly exposed' in her open suffering from a 'torture' that has been 'useless'--useless because it taught the children nothing, because the teacher did not manage to withstand it and, perhaps, because it is no longer of any use for the narrator's subconscious pleasure. Ostensibly as sympathetic understanding, for a third time the narrator begins to imagine the details of Miss Aitcheson's plight. She imagines that Miss Aitcheson's eyes are telling everyone, even the narrator herself, that it was 'not her fault' if she was not up to the task. Then the narrator imagines the teacher appealing unsuccessfully to the children, 'trying in some way to force their admiration and respect', but having them 'shut against her'. Finally, she imagines the teacher cast out from the good opinion of the children, then from her good opinion of herself--her self-confidence--and at last even from her sense of confidence over her future retirement. In this way, because of her merely human frailty, her failure 'to love and preserve what she feared' before the children, Miss Aitcheson is left with 'nowhere' to feel safe but in herself, sitting beside the Bear Cabinet and very much like the proverbial bear in a cage.
But this steady intensifying of the narrator's imaginative thinking suggests that her unconscious mind is trying harder with each sentence to push Miss Aitcheson into her helpless plight, to infest her with fears--and perhaps not succeeding. Miss Aitcheson's eyes 'tried to tell' everyone that it is not her fault, implying a possible degree of defiance. Her attempts to force the children's respect could also indicate self-assertion; thus the narrator needs to insist strongly on the children's response, that they are 'shut against' their teacher. Finally, Miss Aitcheson may be 'evicted' from the need to perform for others (including the children, herself and her sense of her future), yet, paradoxically, this also frees her from helplessness and from control by others. The children no longer have any expectations of her. The attendant no longer has any power over her. And so the narrator is in danger of no longer being interested in her. Through human frailty the teacher may indeed have lacked self-control, but she has also been the bravest person in the room. (The narrator, on the other hand, maintains an iron self-control that is not a weapon against her fear of disorder but arises as a symptom from it, and so she could never, on her part, consider any sort of 'promise to love and preserve what she feared.') Freed from the claims of others upon her self and identity, Miss Aitcheson is not hopelessly 'nowhere' but completely reintegrated as herself, no longer going to pieces but in only one place, which can be located specifically as 'the small canvas chair by the Bear Cabinet of the National Science Museum.' Thus, as the narrator's mind circles back without satisfaction to the same place at which the previous paragraph ended, she now completely disengages herself from Miss Aitcheson. The teacher does not enter the narrator's thoughts again.
The last paragraph begins with the narrator looking at her watch, just as the first began with her looking at a notice. Just as thoughts of a tight schedule and a further location helped the narrator rationalise avoiding the disorder of the heart exhibit, so now a sudden awareness of a lack of time and the distance to the station can help her rationalise escaping this new disorder, to a new time and place. She has to hurry and catch a train. The narrator takes a moment, however, to remind herself that she does not have time to visit the heart exhibit--perhaps unconsciously relieved at arranging things so that she will not have to face its disorder. She hurries from the museum in escape. In the story the narrator believes that only she, with her superior powers of observation, has been capable of an imaginative sympathy for the teacher's suffering, yet she has not acted--she is aware of this at a conscious level even if she does not understand why she has done nothing. The narrator has maintained control of her own situation, but this has caused her to remain detached, unhelpful and, finally, isolated. Thus, in a form of pathetic fallacy, the weather around the narrator outside the museum is described for the first time: 'freezing cold'. (It did not feature at the start of the story when the narrator moved across the street to the Hall of North America.) The narrator thinks hopefully of icebreakers on the rivers, emblems of the further rationalisations she will need to dismiss her part in what has happened. She anticipates how the mist, an emblem of welcome forgetfulness, will have risen by the time she arrives home. The safety of her own home makes the narrator think once again about the importance of catching her train. Her thoughts are circling between train and escape, just as they circled between the notice and the exhibit in the story's first paragraph. The story ends, as it began, with the narrator thinking once more of the journey through the human heart, but now, under the guise of a future pleasure deferred, consciously allowing herself to enjoy the fact that it will have to 'wait until some other time.' Her sense of order is already being restored--although the fact that the narrator feels a compulsion to tell this story after the event, if only as an anecdote, suggests that some sort of guilt has been instilled which needs to be worked out.
The highly controlled, ostensibly non-poetic writing of 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' certainly answers any critics inclined to suggest that Frame's style is undisciplined or florid. But beneath the simple tale offered at first reading 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is highly poetic, with each sentence bringing something new to the story. This is because, despite appearances, it is still the work of a writer who customarily uses imagery (the heart and the snake) and the depiction of psychological states (the narrator's, the teacher's, the children's and the attendant's) rather than an involved plot to advance the dynamics of her narrative. The plot of 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is in fact simpler than that of 'The Day of the Sheep', though the story has a stronger impact. One reason for the power of this impact is that, although the narrator of 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' tells her story in a detached, cool manner, she is also an unreliable first-person narrator, and this simple device leads to an easily buried complexity below the story's surface. Another is that, unlike the nostalgia and domestic pride which were the twin features of Nance's mind in 'The Day of the Sheep', the two characteristics of the mind of the narrator in 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart', her instinctive need for control and sense of cruelty, have a naturally logical connection and so resonate off each other throughout every aspect of the story. The reader feels that Miss Aitcheson is brave because she alone makes a conscious choice to act against her instinctive type. The other characters all follow their various natures. The narrator never concentrates on Miss Aitcheson's bravery--she notes only once and obliquely that 'The faces of the children were full of admiration for their teacher's bravery'--and instead the narrator chooses, for reasons she has repressed, to focus on Miss Aitcheson's suffering. But even though Miss Aitcheson's nerve falters and she appears to fail, she also has some measure of success in breaking out of her behavioural mould.
In the same way, 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is a brave story for Frame to have written. While good instincts are intrinsic to talent, it is ultimately more than a shaping instinct that allows a writer to arrange the elements in a story so that its resonances add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. A successful writer also needs to be a conscious artist. 'The Day of the Sheep' shows that from early in her career Frame had both instinct and a developing artfulness. However, 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is an example of a writer producing something remarkable almost solely through art, by writing against type--Frame has consciously moved away from the type of story she instinctively produces. She has been directed to a (for her) new style of writing by the requirements of the work: to display the mind of a character whose weakness is detachment. Because Frame has used the self-imposed restraints of a conventional tale to follow the movements of her narrator's mind, the story never appears forced and thus, paradoxically, its poetic resonances can multiply naturally from its internal dynamics. It flows as easily as a river but is as deep as a sea.
'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' is thus an integral part of Frame's oeuvre. Unlike 'The Day of the Sheep', Frame has moved on from trying to depict suffering as inevitable in a tangled human psychology trapped in a brutal environment. Miss Aitcheson herself is not a special case, she does not suffer through her own fault, and her behaviour is depicted as natural and normal. By focusing on suffering from the other end of its emotional equation, through cruelty, Frame is able to examine its causes from a productive distance. Suffering no longer validates a character's humanity, and so any implicit moralising has vanished. But an old-fashioned, conventional story usually has an obvious moral, and in 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' the moral rises easily out of the story itself: that to be capable of kindness, but to withhold it, is surely the greatest form of cruelty of all. However, qualifications of this moral immediately arise from the story's characterisation. None of the characters can truly be kind. Even the narrator is not as capable of kindness as she believes herself to be. For if it is true that 'A man's character is his fate', then the narrator's subconscious leaves no room for selfless action.(135) The extremity of the narrator's need for self-control actually gives her little or no control over her own choices, so how harshly is the reader to judge her? Throughout the story the reader has shared the narrator's point of view and thus her sense of detachment and superiority. At the drawn-out depiction of Miss Aitcheson's torture, the reader may even have felt some amusement. Furthermore, it is likely that the narrator's telling of her story will itself assist her in forgetting what she has witnessed. In this way, by the end of the story the reader has to some degree become complicit in the narrator's detached inhumanity and, like the narrator, risks not entering the human heart as well. Thus the reader's judgement of the narrator will in some respects be a judgement on the reader's own self. In 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' Frame has contrived a moral test for the reader. React kindly to the teacher's suffering and, as the story's title suggests, you will indeed be entering the human heart--by demonstrating powers of observation of the subtle workings in human emotions and by professing sympathy.
But Frame's story about people's fear of snakes has a special resonance for New Zealand readers, because New Zealand has no snakes and so most New Zealanders reach adulthood without ever handling one. New Zealand's lack of snakes means that Frame's story had to be set overseas. Frame has made all her characters American, even her narrator. (The narrator lives in Baltimore and uses American expressions such as 'elementary class' and 'pocketbook'.) For Frame to have made her narrator a New Zealand tourist would have complicated the story unnecessarily, and in any case the narrator's local knowledge, her sense of not being too far from home, is an important aspect of her self-control. In contrast, when reading 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart' New Zealand readers are far from home and local knowledge. New Zealanders grow up experiencing snakes through film and fiction, such as 'You Are Now Entering the Human Heart', and so their fear of snakes and tendency to stereotype them are more intense, and more uniform, than would be the case with most non-New Zealand readers. Thus the special reaction of New Zealand readers to the narrator's story will demonstrate not only their powers of observation and ability to offer sympathy, but also their capacity for imagination. Observation and professed sympathy alone are not enough; they can be perverted by the imagination, and so they are not enough for the narrator to manage true and active compassion. Imagination is the key. It is the growth of a wholeheartedly imaginative understanding of the suffering of others, as the story makes clear, that distinguishes maturity. This unique moral test for New Zealand readers has been deliberately contrived by the author in her art, changing a special lack in her own country into a special strength in her fiction.
115. Frame, Janet. The Lagoon and Other Stories. Christchurch, Caxton Press, 1951. Anthologised in Davin, Dan (ed.). New Zealand Short Stories. London, Oxford University Press, 1953. Reprinted in Frame, Janet. You Are Now Entering the Human Heart. Wellington, Victoria University Press, 1983: 17-21.
116. Frame, Janet. You Are Now Entering the Human Heart. Wellington, Victoria University Press, 1983: 193-197. Michael King offers two different publication references for the appearance of the story in the New Yorker: 31 Jan. 1970: 37-9 [King: 551, note 35] and 29 Mar. 1969: 134-8 [King: 552, note 28]. [King, Michael. Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame. Auckland, Viking, 2000.]
117. King, Michael. Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame. Auckland, Viking, 2000: 321.
118. As the story makes clear only later, each of these three items also supplies the cause of each of Nance's stated dissatisfactions. The backyard is 'small' because Tom has a lowly job and can afford no better. It is 'suffocating' because Nance feels trapped in her marriage. It seems 'untidy' because Nance suffers from an unhelpfully inflated sense of domestic pride.
119. Nance's 'blue water' refers to 'washing-blue', a blue powder or liquid used for doing laundry.
120. Condemnation of the evil inherent in stereotyping was part and parcel of the intellectual climate of the time. It appeared in mid-twentieth century philosophy, such as existentialism. Furthermore, false racial generalisations about the Jews had been notorious as the Nazis' justification for the Holocaust only a few years before 'The Day of the Sheep' was written.
121. It is not entirely clear whose cousin Nora is, Nance's or Tom's. However, it is Nance's sympathy that Nora seems to elicit, and her letter about her separation puts Nance's name ahead of Tom's--at least as Nance thinks of it.
122. Camus, Albert. The Stranger, 1942.
123. The final paragraph's despairing 'why are there newspapers on the floor' suggests that all Nance manages to do here is transfer the old newspapers from the sofa to the floor.
124. Colonisation of New Zealand's North Island was slower than in the South because of war between Maori tribes and, later, between Maori and settlers. However, by the mid-twentieth century colonisation of the North Island had moved ahead of the South. The majority of the population was living in the North, and cities were developing there while the South Island remained mostly rural. A wistful sense of the South Island being left behind by a more go-ahead, somewhat exotic North appears often in Frame's fiction, and sometimes as a trope for New Zealand provincial insecurity in general.
125. Given the religious imagery in the story, it may be no coincidence that Peter refused to acknowledge knowing Jesus Christ three times, after the arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane.
126. This line is usually associated with Jiminy Cricket's song, though in the film the Blue Fairy is the first to say it.
127. Even Tom, somewhat ambiguously in the light of Frame's emphasis on his repeated failure to win the lottery, still has the faint hope that a lottery-win may bring happiness. It is only Nance who has no hope at all.
128. James, Henry. The Golden Bowl, chapter 22.
129. Even the mother-child relationship, usually the strongest in Frame's fiction, typically has an ineffectual mother who cannot help her children (as in 'Swans'), no matter how much they hope she will.
130. King, Bruce. The New English Literatures. London, Macmillan, 1980: 169. Frame's timing was fortuitous. Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel On the Road was soon to popularise (especially in America) such notions as a nostalgia for a pre-suburban era, a sense of community among society's outsiders and a Romantic inversion of mainstream social values--concepts similar to those which feature in Frame's work.
131. Janet Frame and snobbery, or rather inverse snobbery, could itself almost be the subject of an essay. It is always likely to be controversial. C.K. Stead has succinctly, if ruthlessly, described Frame's prevailing tone as: 'Her taxonomy of the human species recognizes two sub-groups, the strong, healthy and happy who are unlovely, and the rest who are their victims.' [Stead, C.K.. 'King's Frame' (review of King, Michael, Wrestling With the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame). Kin of Place. Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2002: 280.] Stead was soon criticised for this statement in his turn, that such a claim must 'seriously underestimate Frame's work, especially her later novels.' [Webby, Elizabeth. 'Less than kind' (review of Stead, C.K., Kin of Place.) New Zealand Books, Oct. 2002: 13.] But what else is to be made, for example, of the aside in brackets in the first paragraph of Frame's 'The Terrible Screaming': '(one must never work too hard or be dominated by one's thoughts)'? [You Are Now Entering the Human Heart. Wellington, Victoria University Press, 1983: 105.] This aside appears directed to the reader, a sardonic appeal to the reader's sense of liberal values--as against those of the story's self-deceiving bourgeoisie. Frame assumes that the reader of her story will be a certain type of person who can thus be addressed directly. She is also indulging in a frequent strategy--especially common in the fables--which she uses to get the reader on her side: separating the reader from the herd of middle-class humanity by offering the seductive appeal of the insider's position. This exploits the reader's desire to feel, through liberalism, unconnected to stupid, cruel or censorious members of the middle class and to be flattered by the writer; Frame's offer is, ultimately, an opportunity to partake in a sense of shared superiority. In her fiction, however, Frame has written well about the mechanism of snobbery itself. One can speculate that 'snob' is the word Nancy whispers to Mavis near the close of 'My Cousins Who Could Eat Cooked Turnips', although plainly the act of complicity between them is more important than what is said. [You Are Now Entering the Human Heart, op. cit.: 7-10.] This narrative action also mirrors the common perception of snobbery, that outward form matters more than inner content. In Frame's story, a child named Nancy has city cousins, Dot and Mavis, who seem to belong to a better social class than she does. This she unwittingly comments on when she associates their manners with their 'dunny roses'. [Frame uses this expression for her own home at Willowglen in An Angel at my Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. Auckland, Century Hutchinson, 1984: (chap 6) 51.] Her cousins exhibit mysteriously good behaviour through self-imposed restraint, which allows them to feel superior to 'the starving children in Europe'. Above all, these 'Cultured' cousins can eat cooked turnips, which Nancy and her nature-loving siblings only like raw. (The distinction between raw and cooked food has long been seen by anthropologists as a major step in the civilising process.) In the story's second half, Nancy, her brother and sister, and their mother visit their cousins and their cousins' world of arbitrary and smothering etiquette. Nancy and her siblings are at a loss at first while their mother tries hard to keep up appearances with her relatives. Then at dinner, sensing the atmosphere of competition, Nancy and her siblings pass complicit glances and eat their cooked turnips 'in cold blood'. Now understanding the motivation for snobbery, Nancy brags to Mavis and then whispers a word in her ear, which Mavis understands. Thus Mavis and Nancy become friends, though only by playfully imitating the snobbish activities of their parents. To what degree this playfulness is self-aware and implies an ironic parody of their parents' competitive behaviour, and to what degree the children have themselves been infected by the sort of snobbery that seems to divide childhood from adulthood, remains ambiguous.
132. There is, in fact, no indication of the narrator's gender in the story.
133. It can also be observed that in the attendant's very single-mindedness--he does not say 'most' people 'seem to think that every snake they meet has to be knocked on the head'--he, technically, stereotypes all people. Even his expression 'teach them that every snake they meet is not to be killed' technically categorises all snakes as 'not to be killed', when what the attendant means is 'teach them that not every snake they meet is to be killed'.
134. The flattened swelling below a cobra's head is, however, referred to as the 'hood'.
135. Heraclitus. 'On the Universe', fragment 121.
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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