Gavin Highly – Janet Frame

     Janet Frame’s short story, Gavin Highly, reads like a parable that is both alluring and obvious.  The language lives in hyperbole, strewn across the page by a narrator who is recounting the incident from his childhood, and opens up the story with the line, “Did it happen this way?”
     Gavin Highly is an outsider who has no job and lives in a tent/hut near a creek.  Myths abound, at least among the children of the area, and it is rumored he once lived, “in a rabbit burrow, where a rabbit kept house for him and he invited ferrets, kindly ones, in for afternoon tea.”  Another rumor is about Highly’s fantastic collection of old and rare books.
     The conflict comes to a head when Gavin Highly is forced to move by the Health Inspector.  He has the choice of moving into a government run retirement home or selling his books and retaining his freedom.  As someone who used to entertain ferrets, the choice is quite clear.  He is a man that needs his freedom.  In the end, all is not as it appears.  Gavin Highly chooses another route and the people in his area do not see him again.
     In a similar fashion to the Pura Principle, the ending of this short story is lacking.  Not much happens.  We don’t see a difference in the narrator.  Why is he telling us this story?  What does it mean?  Sure there’s the obvious statement about value and importance, but it needs something more.  Wonderfully inventive in terms of language and creativity, “Gavin Highly” is fun to read, however it is not a story that leaves you wanting to read it again.

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