Jean Rhys – Voyage in the Dark

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After the death of her father, 18-year-old Anna is forced to leave her home, a small island in the West Indies to return to England. Even though her father was British, Anna has grown up in the Caribbean and is not used to England. Everything is foreign to her, the weather, the people, she even feels lost within herself. Left to her own devices, after having been abandoned by her stepmother, Anna becomes a chorus girl. Money is scarce and so she takes a lover, who provides for her, at least for a time. Anna, constrained into this dependency is losing control of her situation, physically, mentally and financially. The women in her life are also not a great support, all relations with them are tainted with envy and even hatred:

“But I think that it was terrifying – the way they look at you. So that you know that they would see you burnt alive without even turning their heads away; so that you know in yourself that they would watch you burning without even blinking once.”

Forced to conform to certain expectations, but never fully understanding her social position she longs for the simplicity of her home in the Caribbean. The novel deals with quite a few interesting themes one of them being post-colonial identity: “Sometimes it was as if I were back there and as if England was a dream. At other times England was the real thing and out there was the dream, but I could never fit them together.” Voyage in the dark also touches on the loss of innocence and the harsh reality of a woman with no support system. It brilliantly depicts both the outer reality of a cold, harsh Britain but also the rich inner reality of Anna, her fears and doubts.

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