anna morgan voyage in the dark

Voyage in the Dark

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Voyage in the Dark

Jean rhys , carole angier  ( contributor ).

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1934

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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.
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…
‘= 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.

anna morgan voyage in the dark

Keep hope alive and you can do anything, and that's the way the world goes round, that's the way they keep the world rolling. So much hope for each person. And damned cleverly done too. But what happens if you don't hope any more, if your back's broken? what happens then?

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It was one of those days when you can see the ghosts of all the other lovely days. You drink a bit and watch the ghosts of all the lovely days that have ever been from behind a glass.
I had read about England ever since I could read – smaller meaner everything is never mind-this is London-hundreds thousands of White people rushing along and the dark houses all alike frowning down one after the other all alike 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…
This is a beginning. Out of this warm room that smells of fur I’ll go to all the lovely places I’ve ever dreamt of. This is the beginning.
And I saw that all my life I had known that this was going to happen, and that I'd been afraid for a long time, I'd been afraid for a long time. 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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This is England, and I'm in a nice, clean English room with all the dirt swept under the bed. (p.31)
The long shadows of trees, like skeletons, and others like spiders, and others like octupuses. 'I'm quite all right; I'm quite all right. Of course everything will be all right. I've only got to pull myself together and make a plan.' ('Have you heard the one about...') It was one of those days when you can see the ghosts of all the other lovely days. You drink a bit and watch the ghosts of all the lovely days that have ever been from behind a glass. ('Yes, that's not a bad one, but have you heard the one...') (p.142)

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Rhys Matters pp 133–149 Cite as

The Country and the City in Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark

  • Regina Martin  

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Part of the New Caribbean Studies book series (NCARS)

Readers of Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark tend to locate the origin of Anna Morgan’s story—and her problems—in the irreconcilability of her West Indian past with her present experiences in London. The beginning of the story prompts such readings when Anna complains that she cannot integrate her memories into her current life: “It was as if a curtain had fallen” (7). With these words, Anna establishes what critics have understandably taken to be the primary opposition that informs Anna’s character, the opposition between the colonial periphery and its metropole. 1 However, Anna’s problems originate long before she leaves the island of her birth. Anna’s memories indicate that she was no more at peace with herself and with her environment on the Caribbean island than she is in London. As a white colonial and the granddaughter of a former slave owner, she repeatedly complains about her inability to create a place for herself within the racially and culturally stratified community on the island. She feels alienated from a father who grew up in metropolitan Britain and an English stepmother, Hester, who had only recently arrived on the island and insists that Anna identify as English. 2

  • National Identity
  • Estate House
  • Estate System
  • Constant Mobility
  • Colonial Estate

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© 2013 Mary Wilson and Kerry L. Johnson

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Martin, R. (2013). The Country and the City in Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark . In: Wilson, M., Johnson, K.L. (eds) Rhys Matters. New Caribbean Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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anna morgan voyage in the dark

An autobiographical novel about leaving home and encountering a world of sexism and sexuality, Voyage in the Dark (1934) was Jean Rhys's third novel. Jean Rhys (1890-1979) was born in Dominica in the Caribbean and moved to London at the age of 16. After struggling as a chorus girl, living…

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An autobiographical novel about leaving home and encountering a world of sexism and sexuality, Voyage in the Dark (1934) was Jean Rhys's third novel. Jean Rhys (1890-1979) was born in Dominica in the Caribbean and moved to London at the age of 16. After struggling as a chorus girl, living in near poverty, coping with alcoholism, and recovering from a botched abortion, Rhys turned to writing to help her work through her trauma. Many of the themes and events in Voyage in the Dark were inspired by Rhys's own life experiences.

Voyage in the Dark : a Novel by Jean Rhys

Voyage in the Dark was written by Jean Rhys in 1934. It is her third novel and is often considered her most autobiographical work. Like the protagonist of Voyage in the Dark , Rhys grew up in the West Indies (the island of Dominica) and moved to London when she was a teenager. Largely estranged from her family, Rhys worked as a chorus girl traveling from city to city.

Like Anna, Rhys struggled financially and became a wealthy man's mistress for money. He supported and helped Rhys out of near poverty. Rhys's lover paid for her abortion when she found out that she was pregnant with a baby she couldn't support. The abortion was nearly-fatal, and Rhys turned to writing to help her through the trauma.

Voyage in the Dark Summary

Voyage in the Dark is narrated by 18-year-old Anna Morgan, who moves to London from the West Indies following her father's death. Anna travels with a theater troupe, working as a chorus girl with her friends Maudie and Laurie. When Maudie and Anna go shopping one day, they meet two older gentlemen. Anna is hesitant to get in a relationship with Walter, who is twice her age, but Maudie urges her to go out with him.

Anna goes on a date with Walter, but pretends she is uninterested at first. After their date ends, he sends he an envelope with money, which she uses to buy a new coat. Anna loses her virginity to Walter, and he continues to support her financially, even paying for a boardinghouse. Walter introduces Anna to his cousin, Vincent, who tells her he can help her with her acting career.

Voyage in the Dark, POV photograph of a man holding money, StudySmarter

Anna's stepmother, Hester, visits and urges Anna to return to the West Indies. Hester says she and Anna's uncle, Bo, can no longer support her. Anna says she doesn't need Hester's support. The two part ways on bad terms.

Anna and Walter go on an excursion with Vincent and the girl he's been seeing. Anna learns that Vincent and Walter are going to New York for a long stay, and she's upset that Walter didn't tell her before. While Walter is away, Anna receives a letter from Vincent, telling her Walter no longer wants to be with her. The letter states Walter will still support her financially for a time. Anna moves out of the boardinghouse immediately so that he is unable to contact her.

Anna moves into a rundown boardinghouse, where she meets Ethel, who runs a manicure and massage business out of her flat. Anna starts working as Ethel's manicurist, and men come in all the time hoping to have sex. Anna begins casually seeing several men and finds out she is pregnant. Fearing that the pregnancy will be bad for her business, Ethel kicks her out.

With no one else to turn to, Anna writes to Walter asking if he will pay for her to have an abortion. Although part of her wants the baby, she knows she can't take care of it. Vincent helps Anna, but the abortion goes horribly. Anna almost dies and drifts in and out of consciousness. A doctor visits and says that she will recover and be able to return to her life all over again.

Voyage in the Dark Characters

Below are the main characters in the novel.

Anna Morgan

The narrator of the novel, Anna, is a young woman who struggles in England after moving from the West Indies. She thinks England is cold and depressing and finds herself struggling financially. She works as a chorus girl and eventually loses her virginity to a much older man, who gives her money after sex. Walter supports Anna financially, but she gets depressed when he ends the relationship. She begins having sex with other men and has an abortion when she discovers she's pregnant.

Voyage in the Dark, Boats and houses in the Caribbean, StudySmarter

Walter Jeffries

Walter Jeffries, a wealthy, middle-aged man, is Anna's main love interest. He pursues her after meeting her on the street. Anna becomes financially and emotionally dependent on Walter, who buys her nice things and takes care of her when she's sick. Walter is only interested in Anna for her youth and appearance, and he has his cousin end things with Anna through a letter. Walter pays for Anna's abortion.

Maudie is Anna's older friend from the traveling theater troupe. She encourages Anna to pursue a relationship with Walter because she has dated wealthy men in the past and gotten money from them. She also warns Anna not to fall in love with Walter because he will most likely leave her when he gets bored.

Like Maudie, Laurie is an older friend who worked with Anna. Laurie is more sexually promiscuous, and it is heavily implied that she is a sex worker. She attempts to set Anna up with Carl and Joe, two men at her house, but Anna becomes agitated. Laurie tells Anna to take as much of Walter's money as she can.

Ethel Matthews

Ethel Matthews befriends Anna while they're both living in a rundown boardinghouse. Ethel states that her flat is nice, and she's only living in the boardinghouse while her home is being renovated. She was trained as a nurse but now runs a massage parlor out of her home. When Anna visits Ethel at her flat, Ethel convinces her to rent a room from her. Anna also agrees to work as a manicurist for her business, and it is implied that Ethel subtly encourages her to engage in sex work to make more money. Ethel kicks Anna out of the flat when she discovers she's pregnant.

Walter's cousin, Vincent, is the middle man between Anna and Walter after their relationship ends. Vincent writes to Anna on Walter's behalf. He acts as though he wants the best for Anna, although he really wants to minimize damage to Walter's reputation. Vincent gives Anna the money she needs for the abortion.

Anna's stepmother, Hester was raised in England and only moved to the West Indies when she married Anna's father. Hester is racist and judgmental. She resents having to financially support Anna after Anna's father dies, although Hester kept all the money from selling the family estate.

Uncle Bo is Anna's uncle from the West Indies. He and Hester do not get along. Uncle Bo refuses to pay for Anna's move back to the West Indies, stating she is not his financial responsibility. He tells Hester she should be able to afford Anna's move back home since she just sold the family estate.

Voyage in the Dark Themes

The main themes in the novel are money and happiness, gender and power, and identity and the Other.

Money and Happiness

Anna and many of her friends struggle with money. As women, there are fewer opportunities for them to support themselves in the patriarchal society. Anna does not know financial security as an unmarried woman working as a chorus girl. This instability keeps her from truly experiencing happiness, and her life in England seems dull and monotonous. Part of why she becomes so attached to Walter is the security he provides with his financial assistance. She can buy expensive clothes, take trips, and even move into a nicer boarding home. Anna isn't necessarily a materialistic person, but she finds happiness when she experiences stability and more than the bare minimum.

Money and happiness go hand in hand throughout the novel because having money allows the women to experience life more fully. They have sex with wealthy men for money because they cannot make enough on their own. Although the women are every bit as ambitious and hardworking as the men, they will always be seen as socially inferior. The one thing they are able to offer these powerful men is sex in exchange for money and, indirectly, happiness.

Gender and Power

Men have the majority of the power in the novel. They are elevated financially as well as socially in their patriarchal society. Many of the women rely on their relationships with men in order to make a comfortable living. Sex is one of the few instances in which they have power over men because they control what the men want. Laurie, for example, is able to get dinner and money out of the men she sleeps with. Although they rank higher than her socially, she is able to control them.

The disparity inherent in gender and power is especially apparent in Anna's relationship with Walter. When they first meet, everything is on her terms. Walter sends her money before the two have sex because Anna holds the power. Over time, though, he becomes increasingly uninterested and eventually cuts her out of his life. When Walter ends things with Anna, he regains complete control of their relationship. He no longer contacts her directly, instead using Vincent as the middleman.

Walter also demands that Anna return the letters he wrote to her in order for him to help her. Why might he do that? What does that say about the power dynamics in the novel?

Identity and the Other

Anna experiences social isolation throughout the novel because she is an outsider who does not fit perfectly into English society. Anna misses the West Indies and thinks life in England is dull, monotonous, and exhausting. She says,

It was as if a curtain had fallen, hiding everything I had ever known. It was almost like being born again. The colours were different, the smells different, the feeling things gave you right down inside yourself was different. Not just the difference between heat, cold: light, darkness; purple, grey. But a difference in the way I was frightened and the way I was happy." (Part One, Chapter One)

Alone, without any family to support her, Anna has to navigate a very different world from the one she was accustomed to in her beloved West Indies. Even though she is white, Anna grew up in a predominately Black culture in the Caribbean. As a result, she feels more connected with Black culture than she does European culture. In England, Anna is ostracized for not behaving entirely like a European. Although England grows on her over time, she never feels fully comfortable in the city because her childhood in the West Indies separates her as the Other.

Voyage in the Dark, Girl looking outside window alone, StudySmarter

Voyage in the Dark Quotes

The most important quotes in Voyage in the Dark examine the themes of money and happiness, gender and power, and identity and the Other. Below are a few excerpts from the novel.

I took the money from under my pillow and put it into my handbag. I was accustomed to it already. It was as if I had always had it. Money ought to be everybody’s. It ought to be like water. You can tell that because you get accustomed to it so quickly." (Part 1, Chapter 2)

Anna says this after Walter has given her money following sex. Although Anna falls in love with Walter, for him, it is mostly a transactional relationship. Though Anna is not a sex worker, Walter gives her money every time they have sex and ensures she is financially cared for. This presents the power dynamics between men and women in the novel, which are expanded upon throughout the novel.

Most importantly, this quote depicts Anna's relationship with money. She has struggled since moving to London, barely getting by on her paycheck as a chorus girl. Although she works hard to support herself, she will never make enough money to be comfortable. The only jobs available for women of her social class don't pay enough to get by, so many women, like Laurie, Maudie, and later Anna, turn to sex work in order to support themselves.

A woman—Anna's stepmother—keeps all the money from selling the family estate after Anna's father dies. How does that affect the themes of money and power within the novel?

Voyage in the Dark, Man holding empty wallet, StudySmarter

‘D’you know,’ she said, ‘I never pay for a meal for myself—it’s the rarest thing. For instance, these two—I said to them quite casually, like that, ‘When you come over to London, let me know. I’ll show you round a bit,’ and if you please about three weeks ago they turned up. I’ve been showing them round, I can tell you….I get along with men. I can do what I like with them. Sometimes I’m surprised myself. I expect it’s because they feel I really like it and no kidding. […]’ (Part 2, Chapter 2)

Laurie says this to Anna as she is discussing her relationship with two Americans, who presumably pay her for sex. It is implied that Laurie thinks Anna should do the same thing in order to make money and support herself. When Anna moves in with Ethel later, she also suggests that Anna should entice wealthy men for money. Anna unintentionally did have this sort of transactional relationship with Walter, as he would slip money in her purse each time they slept together. Money is a powerful force in the novel: the women generally struggle to support themselves, and the men have all the wealth.

This also relates to the disparate power dynamics between males and females. In society, the men have the power because they control the wealth. The women, however, often use sex as a form of control over the men. Laurie says she never pays for a meal, and can do what she wants with the men because they are under her control, even while the men are in a superior, more secure social position.

‘Poor little Anna,’ making his voice very kind. ‘I’m damned sorry you’ve been having a bad time.’ Making his voice very kind, but the look in his eyes was like a high, smooth, unclimbable wall. No communication possible. You have to be three-quarters mad even to attempt it.

‘You’ll be all right. And then you must pull yourself together and try to forget about the whole business and start fresh. Just make up your mind, and you’ll forget all about it.’" (Part 3, Chapter 6)

Vincent says this to Anna when she asks him for money for an abortion. She and Walter have long since broken up, and she tells Vincent the baby isn't Walter's. Vincent's condescension underscores the power he feels he has over Anna. Although he talks as though he is sympathetic and caring, he doesn't actually connect with her. Instead, he maintains his power and control by his distance from the situation.

Both Anna and Vincent know that she needs Walter's money in order to have the abortion. Without the money for the procedure, Anna will have to raise a child she knows she cannot support. Her lack of money is inherently tied to her social status and gender, as her job options are limited, and there's little chance for her to advance socially. She will always be reliant on a man's money in order to feel a comfortable level of security.

It is also important to note that Vincent is acting as the buffer between Walter and Anna. As soon as the two broke up, Walter no longer needed to see Anna. He is able to use Vincent as his only method of communication. And Anna can't demand to see Walter himself because of her social inferiority, which keeps her submissive to Walter even after their relationship ends.

Voyage in the Dark Analysis

Though Rhys's own life deeply influenced Voyage in the Dark , it examines many universal themes that are still apparent in society today. Each of the work's central themes is interconnected and speaks to the issues women and foreigners still face in society. Although society in the 21st century has come a long way since Rhys's 1934 novel, the patriarchy still gives men an advantage over women, and Western society still has systems in place that ensure white privilege.

Money is still disproportionately in the hands of wealthy, white men, while women and minorities encounter more obstacles to gaining wealth and supporting themselves. And issues of bodily autonomy and a woman's ability to have an abortion are still being debated almost a century later.

Voyage in the Dark doesn't offer a solution to any of these issues, nor does the ending offer any hope for a better future. In the final section of the novel, the doctor who sees Anna while she is delirious after her botched abortion says, "You girls are too naïve to live, aren’t you?” (Part Four, Chapter One). He also says that she will be ready to “start all over again” (Part Four, Chapter One), implying that she will have to return to the exact same life that has mistreated her at every turn. With the ambivalent ending of Anna returning to her tragic life, the novel challenges society to give women, who deserve much more than what has been offered to them, a chance at a better life.

Voyage in the Dark - Key takeaways

  • Voyage in the Dark was written by Jean Rhys in 1934.
  • It is largely an autobiographical novel based on Rhys' childhood in the West Indies and her move to London.
  • The protagonist is Anna, an 18-year-old who struggles with social isolation, her identity as an outsider, her relationship with men who are socially superior, and supporting herself financially so she can experience stability.
  • The novel examines themes of money and happiness, gender and power, and identity and the Other.
  • Voyage in the Dark ends ambivalently, with Anna recovering from a botched abortion and having to return to the same life that she resents.

Frequently Asked Questions about Voyage in the Dark

--> how does voyage in the dark end.

Voyage in the Dark  ends with Anna regaining consciousness and preparing to restart her life.

--> Where is Anna Morgan from in Voyage in the Dark ?

Anna is from the West Indies. 

--> When was Voyage in the Dark written?

Voyage in the Dark  was written in 1934.

--> When was V oyage in the Dark set?

V oyage in the Dark  is set mostly in London in 1913-14.

--> What happens at the end of Voyage in the Dark ?

After Anna's botched abortion, she gets very ill and needs a doctor. He says that she will recover and will be ready to start her life over again.

Final Voyage in the Dark Quiz

Voyage in the dark quiz - teste dein wissen.

Who wrote  Voyage in the Dark ?

Show answer

Voyage in the Dark  was written by Jean Rhys.

Show question

How was  Voyage in the Dark  influenced by Rhys's personal life? 

Like the protagonist, Rhys was also raised in the West Indies. She left home as a young woman and attempted to make a living as a chorus girl. She relied on men for money and, like Anna, was traumatized by a botched abortion. 

Who is the protagonist in Voyage in the Dark ?

True or false: Anna is a prostitute 

How does Walter change Anna's life? 

Walter supports Anna financially while they are together, giving her money, putting her in a better boardinghouse, and taking her on trips. 

When does Walter end his relationship with Anna? 

While he's away on a trip to America

Who is Hester? 

Anna's stepmother

What happens to Anna at the end of the novel? 

Anna has an abortion which goes badly, and she nearly dies. The doctor says that she will live and will be able to start her life again. 

What are the themes in the novel? 

Money and happiness

Gender and power

How does Walter show his control over Anna?

After the two end, he will only communicate through Vincent, forcing her to communicate on his terms. 

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Unlikeable Characters and Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark

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Vanessa Willoughby

Vanessa Willoughby is an editor and a writer. Her work has appeared on The Toast, The Hairpin, Bitch, Bookslut, Thought Catalog, and Literally, Darling.

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Do all main characters have to be likeable? For some readers, a likeable character and/or narrator is the only gateway into a novel. Without the pleasant, inoffensive voice of the novel’s guide, the closed-off reader may dismiss a novel that thrives because of its rough, unapproachable, even feral character. Although my reading tastes have changed over the years, I can’t recall a period of time when I put a self-imposed ban on any novel or work of literature that didn’t have a likeable protagonist. When we read a novel, we are often reading about the fictional personal history of strangers. When did history solely focus on safe, simple, reliable people? When did history only immortalize those who possessed a clean and pious record of saintly behavior?

In her third novel, Voyage in the Dark , Jean Rhys conjures the character of Anna Morgan. Although not entirely true to the author’s life, it’s been widely acknowledge that the novel heavily borrows from the author’s culturally varied background. Anna is a recent transplant to England from the West Indies. She is still in the late stages of teenagehood and finds work as a chorus girl. She misses her native home with a fierce and very potent ache that ultimately fuels her depression and self-destructive apathy. Unlike the witty heroines of a Jane Austen novel, Anna’s inner misery prevents her from rising above her challenges. The text even seems to suggest that upon leaving her beloved West Indies, Anna decided to completely shut down. She chooses numbness in order to mute the unbearable pain. In her essay titled Go On and Hate Me: The Remarkable Handling of Pity in Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark , author Rachel Howard notes, “Anna Morgan is the essence of ‘unlikeable’ character, if by ‘unlikeable’ we mean that she refuses to allow anyone to sympathize with her. One of Anna’s defining traits is that when she elicits pity, she trounces it.” Howard’s succinct observations pinpoint the core of Anna as an unlikeable and aloof character. Rhys has created a character that is both hopeless and certain of her fate, a young woman who is more so governed by the strength of her pride than her heart.

For Anna, the absence of the West Indies is akin to the abrupt absence of a lover. The feeling goes beyond feeling homesick. In the haunting opening of the novel, Anna says, “It was as if a curtain has fallen, hiding everything I had ever known. It was almost like being born again.” Later on she adds, “…I got used to everything except the cold and that the towns we went to always looked so exactly alike. You were perpetually moving to another place which was perpetually the same.”

When I first read Voyage in the Dark , I interpreted Anna’s detached narration, the lack of visceral, emotional confessions, and her hapless luck as symptoms of defeat. A wounded soul who employed the wrong defense tactics. A young woman who was terrified at the idea of growing up and calling this strange land her new home. Anna doesn’t want to be saved. It would interfere with the comfort of wallowing in her melancholy. I also understood that Anna was not meant to be a Pollyanna carbon copy, nor was the reader’s sympathy intended to excuse Anna of her more rotten character traits. In the first chapter, Anna casually describes England and her environment with less than PC words. She says, “Market Street smelt of the wind, but the narrow street smelt of niggers and woodsmoke and salt fishcakes fried in lard.” The usage of this word to describe black people deliberately sheds light on Anna’s mindset, in addition to her race and level of white privilege. Anna may be an outsider, but in no way is she the same type of outsider as the silent and nameless black characters. Her depression may be connected to her class standing, but it is not the result of systemic, historical, and/or overt racial discrimination and oppression.

As a young black woman reading this novel, who was typically one of the few black students in her middle school and high school classes and had to endure the sheer awkward terror of hearing white classmates smoothly pronounce THAT word while reading Huckleberry Finn , Black Like Me , and To Kill a Mockingbird , one would assume that I’d toss the book across the room. Yet what kind of reader would I be if I simply discarded every book that made me uncomfortable? Unlike the aforementioned books, I have always been drawn to main characters who can reflect parts of myself, who can speak to the nuances of existing and fighting to live in a male-dominated world. Not tragic heroines who only exist within the parameters of that label, but girls and women who become entangled in a lifestyle of tragedy. The novel’s language is mesmerizing. Revelations appear to be bursting at the seams, but are in fact, a cloak over real vulnerability. Anna Morgan loves in a way that I understand, can even identify within myself.

When you are trapped in depression’s hold, it feels like you’re forever swirling around and around a drain. Depression, like mental illness in general, is still a taboo subject. Our culture continues to regard it as something sinister and defective. People hear the word “depression” or “mental illness,” and they succumb to the heartlessness of their ignorance and judgment. They simply think of mental illness as some horrible affliction that’s beneath them. They picture dirty insane asylums of yesteryear, people babbling nonsense in padded cells, a corrupted mind suddenly alien. They call us “crazy” as though it were a slur. 

Although Anna actually spends more time talking about outside environments and people’s actions rather than internal states, I saw this choice as a mildly effective way to keep things in control. Depression leads to apathy and apathy disrupts a person’s ability to give and receive love. Sometimes in the dead of night, I travel back in time and remember the relationship I had with the only boyfriend that received an I love you . Things weren’t always sunny skies and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. We both pushed each other away. Like Anna’s lovers, he never really understood me. Like Anna, my depression and overall low self-regard transformed into an indifference that caused destruction.  

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Voyage In The Dark

46 pages • 1 hour read

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  • Part 1: Chapters 1-3
  • Part 1: Chapters 4-6
  • Part 1: Chapters 7-9
  • Part 2: Chapters 1-5
  • Part 3: Chapters 1-4
  • Part 3: Chapters 5-7; Part 4: Chapter 1
  • Character Analysis
  • Symbols & Motifs
  • Important Quotes
  • Essay Topics

Summary and Study Guide

In 1934, Jean Rhys wrote Voyage in the Dark , her third published novel and a book believed to besemi-autobiographical.

Voyage in the Dark is the story of eighteen-year-old Anna Morgan , a woman transitioning from her childhood in the West Indies into her adulthood in England. For Anna, Britain is a foreign landscape that is as mundane and repetitive as it is cold and harsh. Although she appears to adjust herself to England, her thoughts are easily led to the fragrant and warm memories of the Caribbean.

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In the beginning, Anna is a chorus girl on tour with a theatrical company and boards with a colleague, Maudie. They have been through a string of towns and are now stationed in Southsea. On a free night, the ladies take a stroll and discover two men following them with apparent interest. Inviting them over for drinks, the men introduce themselves as Mr. Jones and Mr. Jeffries. Anna takes a dislike to them initially but allows Mr. Jeffries to have her contact details before he departs. Upon discovering her tour ends in London, he hopes that they may meet as he works in “the City” (13).

When Anna arrives to Holloway, she dines with Mr. Jeffries, or Walter, a man twice her age with considerable wealth. As they drink and converse, Walter expresses his desire for Anna, who in a moment of shock, declines his advances.

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After berating herself for that night, the following morning she finds a gift of violets and a large sum of money from Walter. On an impulse, she fulfills her repressed yearning for fashionable clothing. A metaphorical door opens for Anna; she believes she can live her dreams and, with newfound power, steps onto unacquainted shores of love and romance as she proceeds into a liaison.

She quickly grows accustomed to Walter’s affection and indulgences. She spends her days centered on him, without giving a thought to the future. When Maudie visits her for her birthday, her warnings about men are ignored by Anna. In the meantime, Hester , Anna’s stepmother, visits Anna in London with a letter from her Uncle Bo that has riled her, as Hester wrote Bo to assist her in sending Anna back to the West Indies. Her hopes for Anna have not come to fruition and Hester concludes that England is not the place for her. Instead, her uncle accuses Hester of usurping Anna’s father’s property and her inheritance and refusing responsibility for Anna, as it was Hester’s decisions that led Anna to an aimless state. An offended Hester decidedly proclaims that despite her best intentions for Anna, she cannot continue to support her. Going forward, both choose little with the other as their correspondence slowly ceases.

Previously, Walter introduced Anna to his cousin, Vincent , for singing lessons, and probed her on her aspirations, as Anna’s attachment to Walter becomes more fervent each day. During a stay at the countryside, Anna discovers the men are set to leave for New York. They return after an unexpectedly short trip, and Anna receives a letter from Vincent written on behalf of Walter that Walter shall financially support her but wishes to terminate their relationship. Heartbroken and distraught, she asks to meet Walter, who confirms and leaves her lodging without providing an address.

Subsequently, Anna dips into depression and discovers solace in drinking. Her financial resources have dwindled. She meets Ethel, a woman who offers Anna a room in her flat and a chance to work with her as a manicurist. By chance, Anna runs into Laurie, a former colleague from her show days, who consoles her and invites her out with two American men, Carl and Joe. Although the night ends in turmoil, with Anna belligerent, Laurie forgives her. Later, Anna takes up Ethel’s proposal, butane turns out to be a terrible manicurist.

Laurie stops by Ethel’s fledgling operation and asks an increasingly morose Anna to join her and the Americans for dinner. Eventually, Anna engages in a tryst with Carl until he leaves. Anna meets up with Maudie, who borrows her money from the rendezvous to impress a marital prospect.

Afterwards, Anna brings another man home, this one with a broken hand, and realizes that she is pregnant. Upon destroying Ethel’s flat, she moves in with Laurie. Despite her conflicting feelings, she knows she must get an abortion and Laurie urges her to reach out to Walter and his promises to help. Vincent arranges the money needed but requests that she give him all the letters between her and Walter. Anna obliges.

Anna’s abortion goes awry as Laurie and Mrs. Polo, the charwoman, seek a solution to her progressively dismal condition. A doctor is called to treat Anna, who is roving between her memories and hallucinations of the West Indies. He declares her free from danger as Anna gains consciousness and contemplates a fresh start to life.

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