Voyage In The Dark Summary

Jean Rhys

Voyage In The Dark

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Voyage In The Dark Summary

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Voyage in the Dark (1934) is a novel by Dominican writer Jean Rhys. The novel was inspired by the author’s experience of moving to England from Dominica when she was 16 years old. Told in the first-person perspective; the novel’s heroine shares memories of her childhood in the West Indies, and her negative reactions to England. This is the first novel that Rhys wrote, and the author’s self-professed favorite work.

The four part novel tells the tale of Anna Morgan, who was raised in the West Indies, on the island of Dominica. Anna’s father has recently died and she moves to England with her cruel stepmother, Hester. Shortly after arriving in England, Hester cuts off all financial support for Anna, who must then fend for herself.

Anna relocates from the warmth of her homeland to a cold, damp England where everything is bleak and gray. Climate serves an important metaphor throughout the novel. Like the English climate, Anna’s time in the country is cold and dark. Anna’s recollections of her childhood in the West Indies are all warm, colorful and happy. For example, she has fond memories of listening to stories told by her caregiver Francine and of eating mangoes.

Initially, Anna works as a chorus girl to support herself. She never knows how long each job will last. She travels around the country performing in run-down theaters and staying in boarding rooms. She rooms with an older actress named Maudie. Anna regularly gets ill due to moving all the time and England’s damp climate.

Anna’s fortunes seem to change for the better. One day, when she is out with Maudie, they meet two older men who appear to be financially well-off. Maudie and Anna invite the two men to their apartment for tea. Anna begins a relationship with Walter Jeffries, one of the men. She loses her virginity to him. He sets her up with an apartment in London so that he can visit her when he wishes. Walter helps to care for Anna by giving her money for new clothing or taking care of her if she is ill. Walter helps Anna to find a singing instructor through an introduction from his cousin, Vincent. Despite not seeing Walter very often, the young Anna falls in love with him and relies on him for his emotional and financial support.

Occasionally, Anna reminisces about her childhood in Dominica. As a child, Anna related more to the black culture of the Caribbean, and even wished to be black like her caretaker, Francine. When drunk, she shares childhood memories about the slaves in Dominica and her father with Walter.

Anna meets Hester, her stepmother. Hester has sold the family estate in Dominica, but there is no more money left. Hester thinks that Anna would be better off returning to Dominica. Hester feels that she has not done anything wrong by cutting Anna off. Anna’s Uncle Bo back in Dominica disagrees. Uncle Bo believes Hester cheated Anna out of her rightful inheritance and mismanaged the property. Hester shares a letter from Anna’s uncle with her. Uncle Bo believes Hester should share her deceased husband’s wealth with Anna. Hester does not value Bo’s opinion. He is a drunk and has many illegitimate children from relations with the natives of Dominica. Instead of asking Hester for support, Anna tells her she is doing fine on her own. (Anna says this because she believes that Walter will continue to support her.)

Anna takes a trip into the English countryside with Walter, Vincent, and Germaine, Vincent’s girlfriend. She feels left out, as the others have conversations without her. The trip is cut short because Vincent and Germaine keep fighting; Anna learns that they are fighting because Vincent and Walter are taking a trip to the United States.

While Walter and Vincent are in the US, Anna receives a letter from Vincent. The letter states that Walter is breaking it off with Anna as he no longer loves her. After Walter’s trip, Anna meets him one more time. The relationship is over. Anna leaves the London love nest without telling Walter where she has gone.

After the end of her relationship with Walter, Anna sinks into a depression. She befriends women like herself who are trying to make it on their own in London. She also has several brief relationships with men. This results in Anna getting pregnant.

Anna becomes very ill after a botched abortion. As she is healing, she hallucinates while lying in bed. Her hallucinations take her back to a masquerade from her childhood in Dominica. The novel ends with the Anna realizing she is going to have to start her life over again.

Jean Rhys was born Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams in 1890 in Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean. She moved to England at the age of 16 and died there in 1979. In the 1920s and 1930s, she wrote novels and short stories about bohemians set in Europe. Her most successful novel, Wild Sargasso Sea (1966), set in the West Indies, was written after she took an almost three-decade long hiatus from writing.