Steven Colalillo, Vanessa Correia, Thomas Leclaire
Analysis of Scene 9: Camden Town High Street (93-97)
In this scene, Ethel expresses her dislike of foreigners after viewing the portrayal of an English character in a play by a non-English lady with a red wig. Anna is conflicted because she is also a foreigner, and gets an outside view of how others view people in her position. Foreigners are laughing-stocks, embarrassing, and lack self respect: “an English girl would have respected herself more than to let people laugh at her like that” (94). Ethel seeks support in her beliefs, and is stupefied by Anna’s lack of conviction on the matter: “You don’t hate them?” (95). Anna is displeased with the commentary but is drawn in by the promise of a friendship during her time of darkness and solitude.
Another source of conflict is Ethel’s direct snarky remark about Anna’s lifestyle. When Anna mentions that she was previously on tour with Maudie, Ethel says, “Oh I see…you’re on the stage, are you?” (95). Immediately after, she switches the subject to Ana’s fur coat, proving that she is judgmental toward her. This also can be analyzed sub-textually; Ethel holds many prejudgments about loose women and foreigners.
Humour can found in Anna’s candor, thoughts, and attitudes. She has no regard for the “ladylike” standard and is not poised. When Ethel asks her why she is staying in such a dingy place when she owns such a luxurious coat, Anna retorts, “Well what are you here for then… if you think it’s as awful as all that?” (96). Her personality shines through in this comment: she is bold, unwavering, and sarcastic.
There are a few instances of grotesqueness in this scene. At the very start, Anna mentions that “the pavement looked as if it was covered with black grease” (93). This grimy and dark description of the street demonstrates her exaggerated, ever-darkening view of England.
Anna, who is usually enthused when it comes to alcohol, is repulsed by the smell of gin and mentions that “it always made [her] sick and [her] eyeballs felt so big inside [her] head [turning like round wheels]” (95). The reader can envision the distortion as it takes on a comical tone.
Another instance of grotesqueness comes right after Anna downs the disgusting gin, and Ethel mentions that she is only staying at the shoddy residence while her flat is being upgraded. Anna pretentiously asserts: “I don’t need to be here either… I can get as much money as I like any time I like” and watches her “swollen shadow” stretching on the wall.(96). She purposely inflates her ego to match Ethel’s personality, as is personified by the shadow of her figure on the wall.
Imagery is used to portray the dullness of London: “…Camden Town High Street [was] quite dark. ‘Not that there’s much difference between the day and the night'” (93). Readers usually expect a heightening of the senses, yet Anna only provides lackluster description. The days in London blur together with no distinct beginning and ending, only a vague passage of time. because of this, Anna has no concept of time, and often refers to clocks to gain some clarity.
The setting in this scene is Ethel’s apartment, which is exactly like Anna’s with the exception of the green walls. Anna’s apartment is painted brown, which shows the contrast between the two females. Anna is much less optimistic and lively, just like the dull brown. This can also be viewed as a social contrast, as she associates herself with foreigners, unlike Ethel who is weary of any clash to traditional English culture.