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Book Title: Viagem no Escuro|
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Reader ratings: 6.9
The author of the book: Jean Rhys
Date of issue: 1993
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.62 MB
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‘They watch you, their faces like masks, set in the eternal grimace of disapproval.’
While a first love can be a period of intensely effervescent emotion and passion, the decline and death of the ill-fated romance is often a harrowing and hellish plunge into the darkness of pain and sorrow. Jean Rhys impeccable Voyage in the Dark chronicles such a descent, or tragic voyage, through the rise and fall of Anna Morgan’s love affair with a wealthy Englishman. Anna, coming from the West Indies and working as a chorus girl across England—much like Rhys herself, whose own experiences illuminate this emotionally charged novel—has her beautiful and youthful innocents trampled upon by the misogynistic society of men who willfully takes advantage of her to fulfill their carnal lusts. She must stay strong and keep her head above water by accepting the money her late-night lovers pass her way, as the often-married men mistake financial support as a morally acceptable compensation for the responsibility they have no intentions of shouldering. Through her elegantly executed juxtaposition of England and the West Indies, as well as gender relations, Rhys creates a cutting compounded metaphor of English imperialism and misogyny that exposes the hardships a poor, young woman must face in a society that views them as nothing but material goods to be plundered and discarded while they struggle to etch out their own identity.
The first draft of Voyage in the Dark predates Rhys first two published novels, yet it wasn’t until she found herself alone in Paris with her first husband behind bars that she began to rework the novel with editor Ford Madox Ford (whom she would have an affair with for several years). She disliked how the novel came out and set it aside, releasing it almost ten years later in 1934. Written early in her life, Voyage carries the weight of her own experience and features a protagonist not unlike Rhys herself. What is most striking about the book, however, is her subtle and perfect prose that rings out so crisp, clear and caustic without calling much attention to itself. There is a brilliant beauty in her concisely incisive observations of social class and others telling mannerisms that really bring the novel to life, as well as her finely-tuned ear for speech patterns. Each character seems to be heard through the ears and instead of read through the eyes, and the speech patterns, as well as the way a character carries themselves, are extremely telling to the sort of person they are. She had…an English lady’s voice with a sharp cutting edge to it. Now that I’ve spoken you can hear that I’m a lady. I have spoken and I suppose you now realize that I’m an English gentlewoman. I have my doubts about you. Speak up and I will place you at once. Speak up, for I fear the worst. That sort of voice. Rhys enacts a prose style that exquisitely breaks into a sort of stream-of-consciousness, imposing Anna’s subconscious into the narrative in a way that often recalls her warm past on the island and wonderfully represents the way her present cannot accommodate her past, leaving her torn, conflicted and imminently alienated.
his is England Hester said and I watched it through the train-window divided into squares like pocket-handkerchiefs; a small tidy look it had everywhere fenced off from everywhere else—what are those things—those are haystacks—oh are those haystacks—I had read about England ever since I could read—smaller meaner everything is never mind—this is London—hundreds thousands of white people white people rushing along and the dark houses all frowning down one after the other all alike all stuck together—the streets like smooth shut-in ravines and the dark houses frowning down—oh I’m not going to like this place I’m not going to like this place I’m not going to like this place… Anna’s past in the Caribbean is always remembered as a period of warmth and love, fresh with colour and life (‘Amd the sky close to the earth. Hard, blue and close to the earth. The mango tree was so big that all the garden was in its shadow…’), which is constantly contrasted with the Anna’s view of England as cold, grey and deathly. She is frequently falling ill and misses the warmth of her childhood, the warmth of innocence and naivety. Childhood is looked at as simplistic and preferable to the hardships and cruelty of adulthood, the years when family are loving caregivers that in adulthood turn their backs on account of money, where mistakes are easily corrected and forgiven, and when the world seems a ripe fruit to be picked, tasted and enjoyed. England is the bitterness of reality, where love is fleeting or false and the sweetness of life is either rotten or far beyond reach, where Anna must come to grips that she is of the lower class, ‘the ones without the money, the ones with beastly lives.’
The cold grey streets of England are where Anna must face the grim realities of gender roles in a prejudiced, misogynistic society where there are those who have and those who need and grieve. Women must jockey for a man to supply them with money and stability and, if they are lucky enough, love that lingers beyond the youthful moments of lust. Anna is surrounded by women with ideas of how a woman should behave, most of them involving methods to woo a man into marriage or at least becoming a kept mistress, viewing men as their Caribbean sun to keep them warm into their twilight years. The harsh reality of her position is made no more clear than the frantic cries of her employer late in the novel as she begs Anna to see her predicament as a single and aging women who must wrangle up money while she can lest she face the cruelest of fates. Voyage in the Dark is filled with examples of misogyny and delivers a powerfully depressing image of men viewing women as nothing but material goods. ‘It's funny,’ Anna’s lover has the audacity to tell her, ‘have you ever thought that a girl's clothes cost more than the girl inside them?’ Anna’s offers her entire existence to a man that is clearly no good for her, pinning her emotional and psychological well-being on his acceptance, to a man that only views her as transitory goods.‘=The light and the sky and the shadows and the houses and the people—all parts of the dream all fitting in and all against me. But there were other times when a fine day, or music, or looking in the glass and thinking I was pretty, made me start again imagining that there was nothing I couldn’t do, nothing I couldn’t become. Imagining God knows what. When she is loved, she is eternal, empowered, and invincible, but when he leaves, as he inevitably will, she faces a descent into a darkness that she had never thought possible. These men that seek her and her peers hands are men of stature, often already married, that only wish for a fling and are willing to support them financially afterword to avoid a scene. Anna must face a world in England where love is false, where everything is cold, and where any hope of the opposite, anything that would fulfill her desires for her past, is merely a façade. ‘The bed was soft, the pillow was as cold as ice…. The fire was like a painted fire; no warmth came from it.’ While we as the reader can grasp at the beauty in Anna’s heart, her silence and innocence leads those around her to see her as stupid, somehow validating their deception of her. It becomes painful to witness her decline, mistaking lust for love and not recognizing that she is a mere commodity, being paid and adorned in fancy dress in exchange for her satisfying sexual thirsts.
Anna’s plight as a woman in a misogynistic society becomes an expression of English imperialism. Often there are passages reflecting on her childhood, specifically moments where she expresses her desires to have been ‘born a negro’, that align with the most impactful passages of misogyny. She, as a woman in English society, is much like the black population kept as chattel back home; Anna’s former home being an English colony viewed more as a financial tally on account books than a place full of people living, breathing and dreaming. Voyage begins to reveal itself as a spiteful commentary on imperialism as well as social and gender roles, becoming a powerful fist of rebellion against all those who would belittle and tower over another human being for any reason, be it gender, race, religion, etc. Innocence becomes a period of social and cultural blindness, when she is unaware of the reasons why her family dislikes her kinship with the black house girl, and adulthood becomes a cold barren wasteland when the blindfold is released and the soul must take in and accept all the horrors of reality. How can Anna carry on and carve her place in the world, create her own identity, in a world set on viewing her as a commodity? The stream-of-conscious style adopted by Rhys becomes a perfect method of highlighting her conflicted mind, seeming almost like a descent into madness as she finds her experiences of the world and her youthful impression of the world to be totally and painfully incongruous.
Voyage in the Dark’ was a fantastic and emotionally stimulating introduction into the works of the fabulous Jean Rhys, and author I have every intention of pursuing until I’ve drunk every last word. She employed a wonderfully simplistic, yet exceptionally poetic style that cuts directly to the heart of matters, wasting not a single word to expose the deepest depths of human emotion. While brief, it is a novel that will stick with you for long after, and will dredge up those painful memories of loss in love, yet allow you to examine them along with Anna in a way that make you thankful for having experienced them simply because you can now understand how they made you the person you are today and simply for reminding you that you are a beautiful human being full of life, love, sorrow, rage and that we all must play our part in the human comedy. There is a strong urge for equality and respect for woman that call to mind beloved authors such as Virginia Woolf, whose book title The Voyage Out partially inspired this ones. Jean Rhys is an author not to be missed, and goes down great with a bottle of dark red wine.
‘There's fear, of course, with everybody. But now it had grown, it had grown gigantic; it filled me and it filled the whole world.’
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Read information about the authorJean Rhys, originally Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams, was a Caribbean novelist who wrote in the mid 20th century. Her first four novels were published during the 1920s and 1930s, but it was not until the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 that she emerged as a significant literary figure. A "prequel" to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea won a prestigious WH Smith Literary Award in 1967.
Rhys was born in Dominica (a formerly British island in the Caribbean) to a Welsh father and Scottish mother. She moved to England at the age of sixteen, where she worked unsuccessfully as a chorus girl. In the 1920s, she relocated to Europe, traveling as a Bohemian artist and taking up residence sporadically in Paris. During this period, Rhys lived in near poverty, while familiarising herself with modern art and literature, and acquiring the alcoholism that would persist through the rest of her life. Her experience of a patriarchal society and feelings of displacement during this period would form some of the most important themes in her work.
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