Janette Turner Hospital: 4 Vivid Female Characters In Her Two Novels


With " beautifully executed images" , Janette
Turner Hospital creates four vivid female character in her
two novels. The four characters are Juliet and Yashoda in
The Ivory Swing and Elizabeth and Emily in The Tiger in the
Tiger Pit . Each of the above is invested by Turner Hospital
with a deep consciousness.
In the view of Janette Turner Hospital, women are
immensely uncertain. They are never sure of what they want.
However, when it comes to dealing with external conflicts,
they are very strong-willed. On the other hand, she also
indicates that maternal love is strong. Women have
passionate beliefs in the importance of the family. As the
stories follow, these feminine personalities are gradually
proved.
Before leaving for India, Juliet had a hard time
deciding whether to stay with her professor husband, David,
or move to Montreal to stay with her former lover Jeremy.
Uncertain as usual, all Juliet wants is to " maintain the
balancing act." She could never summon up the courage to
face new circumstances. Her mind is never firm enough to
challenge the present state. So she makes her choice in the
order of morality. She stays with her husband and leaves for
India with him. It is more likely that the fate designated
Juliet's future. She is married to Dave on her own accord.
Therefore, she does what a good wife is supposed to do.

1. Reviewed in : Booklist v.79 p.994 Apr 1, 1983
2. " The Ivory Swing " p.18

In Kerala, where David is on sabbatical to study
primitive Indian culture, the couple encounters Yashoda," a
widow who does not accept the fate and rigid rules of her
culture." Yashoda wants the right to wear jewellery, to
appear in public; most of all, she wants love. She does not
care about either inauspicious or disgrace. She even runs
the risk of being penalized to travel with Annie. For an
Indian woman such as Yashoda, it is considered quite
difficult adjusting to her society.
Among the four female characters, many similarities
are found between Juliet and Elizabeth. Like Juliet,
Elizabeth has to choose between her husband and lover. The
only difference is that the death of her lover has certainly
made her life easier. She no longer doubts anymore after
Jeremy's death. Her cross-roads becomes one way and ever
since then her life is as simple as an ordinary housewife.
Elizabeth still recalls her past, but she appreciates that
fact that fate decides her future for her. In this case she
avoids family and friendship broken. And she has something
to remembrance for a life time.
Elizabeth's youngest child, Emily, is the
mysterious woman of the four. In Montreal where she happens
to be pregnant and Sydney where she encounters her lover,
Dave. She thereafter moves to England. It is obvious that
Emily love Dave a lot; but she is a uncertain as can be. Her
leaving Dave without even saying good-bye represents her
3. Reviewed in : Booklist v.79 p.994 Apr,1983

doubts. She is afraid that once she has to face the
reality, her love for Dave, she would crush.

Juliet and Elizabeth both stay with their husbands
after all, yet they do not own what they really want. Dave
has noticed Juliet's " staring from the window of their house
like a woman behind bars" , so has Emily mentions about her
about her mother's " standing at the French window like a
caged bird." Emily is aware of her uncertainty. Therefore,
she decides to leave Dave for England. In her opinion she
only wants to get away from complicated life to sort things
out; but instead of talking to Dave about it, she leaves
secretly. Her doing so has hurt Dave and sacrificed her
son's, Adam, happiness as well as her own.

It is easy to get this kind of impression that
Yashoda might be the exceptional certain woman because it
seems that she fights for her ideas; however, if she has the
courage to challenge realities, she should be brave enough to
face the results. On the contrary, Yashoda begs for rescue.
One can only say she acts as if she was a spoiled kid. The
four women all have something in common. The problem is they
are afraid to let out their feelings.


4. " The Ivory Swing " p.152
5. " The Tiger in the Tiger Pit " p.32


Although Janette Turner Hospital implies that women
are uncertain, she believes that when it comes to dealing
with external conflicts, they are very strong-willed. At