Voyage in the Dark, chapter 2. Let’s get pretentious.

Task One

In today’s class, you’re going to micro-dissect chapter 2 from Voyage in the Dark. You’re going to do this by looking closely at a few passages that I’ve listed here.

You’ll be assigned a passage to start with. Start with that one, and continue on from there, completing as many as you have time to.

For each one, I’d like you to write a few lines of analysis. Two or three for each is fine. Consider the subtext, what’s going on beneath the surface. Here are some ideas/themes/tropes/motifs you can consider. Consider them!

Anna’s identity; Anna’s desire to be black; the symbolism of black vs. white; Anna’s pessimism; societal expectations; the sameness of England; gender roles; the awfulness of men; the awfulness of women; personification of objects; comparing people to animals; grotesqueness of other people; Walter’s personality; Anna’s social standing; Anna’s education; Anna’s interior monologue vs. outside world; attitudes toward sex; childishness vs. adulthood; dream vs. reality; England; other people’s expectations; Anna projecting her feelings onto other people and objects; money; anything else that comes to mind…

Here’s the fun part: I would like you to try to sound as pretentious as possible. Pretend you are a stuffy, blowhard professor. Use big words and fancy language. Try to impress your reader with how brilliant you are. You still want to say things that are true and meaningful, but do it in a way that sounds pretentious. Just for kicks.

  1. When they are out of dinner, Jeffries asks Anna, “Do you always wear black?” (17).
  1. Anna’s description of the waiter and Jeffries reveals her attitude: “Their noses were exactly alike, their faces very solemn. The Brothers Slick and Slack, the Brothers Pushmeofftheearth” (17-18).
  1. The description of the restaurant reveals many significant symbols: “There was a red-shaded lamp on the table, and heavy pink silk curtains over all the windows. There was a hard, straight-backed sofa, and two chairs with curved legs against the wall—all upholstered in red” (18).
  1. Throughout the novel Anna compares people to animals. Looking at the matron praying in the restaurant, she says she is “[j]ust like a rabbit, she was, like a blind rabbit” (19).
  1. In response to Anna’s admission that she only makes thirty-five bob a week, Jeffries says, “Good God. [. . .] You surely can’t manage on that, can you?” (19).
  1. While Anna and Jeffries are talking about clothes, Anna daydreams about a line from a book: “She wore black. Men delighted in that sable colour, or lack of colour” (19).
  1. Walter’s observation can reveal symbolic meaning: “You’ve got the loveliest teeth” (19).
  1. While Jeffries is kissing Anna, her mind is somewhere else: “all the time he was kissing me I was thinking about the man at that supper-party at the Greyhound” (20).
  1. The fact that Anna’s thoughts are in italics while entering the bedroom highlight their importance: “You can now and you can see what it’s like, and why not?” (20).
  1. Anna’s thoughts reveal important aspects of her character. After Jeffries lets her go, she thinks, “I stopped hating him” (20).
  1. After she turns down his advances, she says she has a secret feeling, like “when you are playing hide-and-seek” (21).
  1. After Anna turns down Jeffries’ advances, she says, “[I felt] as if I wasn’t there [. . .] as if I were looking at somebody else [. . .] as if I had gone out of myself, as if I were in a dream” (20-21).
  1. The way Anna phrases her description of the room is interesting to consider. She tells us that “[t]he fire was like a painted fire” (21).
  1. When she’s leaving the room with Jeffries, Anna thinks about what her friends might think of her behaviour: “The girls would shriek with laughter if I were to tell them this. Simply shriek” (21).
  1. Anna describes being in her room “like being in a small, dark box” (22).
  1. On the subject of clothes, Anna thinks, “People laugh at girls who are badly dressed. [. . .] And the shop windows sneering and smiling in your face. [. . .] I’ll do anything for good clothes” (22).
  1. Anna finds a surprise when she opens the letter from Jeffries: “there were five five-pound notes inside” (23).
  1. Right after Anna receives the money, she gives us an image that symbolizes her state of mind: “Outside it smelt of melting snow” (24).
  1. The simile that Anna provides while she is being fitted for clothes is worth considering: “I held my arms up and the thin one put on the dress as if I were a doll” (25).
  1. Anna’s frame of mind changes dramatically after she buys the clothes. She thinks, “The streets looked different that day, just as a reflection in the looking-glass is different from the real thing” (25).
  1. Once again, we get a glimpse into Anna’s inner monologue; “This is England, and I’m in a nice, clean English room, with all the dirt swept under the bed” (27).
  1. Our impression of Anna’s sense of her own identity is complicated when she tells us, “I wanted to be black. I always wanted to be black” (27).


Task Two

In Anna’s voice, writer a letter to Walter explaining how you really feel about how he’s been treating you. This is essentially a letter telling him to kiss off.  A breakup letter. Try to imitate Anna’s voice as much as possible, and be as detailed as possible about how you feel about his behaviour toward you.




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