Voyage in the Dark

Thematic connections to other works

The title Rhys chose for her depiction of European modernity recalls another work of modernist literature, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (first serialized in 1899). Rhys's title turns Conrad's on its head: instead of a journey from England to the dark depths of savagery in colonial Africa, it is in England that Anna travels through darkness and despair, while the colonies created in the West Indies are depicted as places of light and innocence. London is represented as a monotonous, suffocating, and alien city, in contrast to Anna's bright, vibrant, and sensual home in Dominica.

Through the character of Anna, Voyage in the Dark presents the tension between wanting to be integrated into English society and simultaneously resisting it, a trait it shares with other works of modernist literature written by Anglophone authors such as the Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, whose characters express a desire to engage with and absorb the best of the colonial legacy, yet simultaneously seek to assert their own identity and to avoid becoming absorbed by the culture of the colonial power. Anna's alienation and subordination is caused not only by her heritage but also by her sex, and it is possible to read her mistreatment at the hands of men as a metaphor for rejection of traditional values.

Anna is represented as being caught between worlds: finding herself isolated socially and emotionally from those around her, she is unable to comfortably reconcile her West Indian and her British heritage. The novel employs modernist techniques to represent this, merging fragments of Anna's past with the action in England by means of a dreamlike stream of interior monologue, which destabilizes and ruptures the narrative, and emphasizes Anna's detachment from English society.


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