Holding On

Alexa Nunziato

I have chosen to represent the scene that struck me the most in Jean Rhy’s Voyage in the Dark with this painting on canvas. The painting is based off Anna’s heart-shattering date with Walter following the day she receives a letter from Vincent. Vincent speaks for Walter through this letter with the ultimate goal of ending whichever undefined relationship he had with Anna. Of course Anna insists on seeing Walter one last time and it is during their last meeting that I witnessed her breakdown. I finally understood the meaning of Anna’s emotions that boiled inside of her. It is obvious that Anna is willing to do anything to keep Walter by her side as Anna thought, “I’ll hang on to your knees and make you understand and then you won’t be able to, you won’t be able to” (84). I immediately noticed that Anna never said those words to Walter, she only thought them. On this date with Walter, Anna puts so much effort into hiding the pain she feels from losing him. In reality though, Walter did not love Anna and used her purely for sex. He saw her as a child which he mentions multiple times through his letters and conversations in the novel. I decided to paint Anna as a young girl holding onto Walter’s knees as he walked the opposite way. This demonstrates what I thought would happen if Anna did actually hold onto his knees. Anna needs Walter to allow her to feel moments of happiness she cannot find on her own. This depicts the image Walter has of Anna and the action Anna wishes she could take, but only imagines. Through this moment, one is able to understand Anna’s internal struggle, her dependancy on others to fill in her emptiness, and the disrespect she faces from Walter.

The second important part of my painting represents the moment when Anna questions herself, “how do you know what it’s like to try to speak from under water when you’re drowned?” (84). This is my favourite line of the novel. A simple yet deep thought allowed me to feel and visualize to what extent Anna felt trapped within her own emotions. How could anyone understand Anna if Anna barely understood herself? Walter will never understand her, and the truth is that he does not care. Miserable Anna struggles with self-identity issues in England, and it is understood throughout the novel that she wants to be black. For this reason, I have painted her drowning hands black to show her true self struggling to reach the surface. The bottom half of my canvas shows an ocean in which Anna is drowning and trying breathe. From my interpretation, this part of the scene represents little to no hope for Anna. When one does not know how to swim, you will drown unless someone saves you. In this case, Anna is the only one who can save herself from her inner conflict. If Anna is not willing to do so, then there is no hope and no change will arise. Not only is this entire scene an eye-opening moment in understanding Anna’s character, but also relatable to most of us. Loss of identity, loss of hope, and a subconscious dependancy on one thing to compensate for the lacking of another is a common issue for most of us.


2 thoughts on “Holding On

  1. Great painting! I like a lot of what you’ve done. It has sort of a cartoonish/pop art type feel, which I think presents this novel in an interesting new light. I like how Walter is just a pair of legs, and while Anna is drowning she’s just a pair of hands. Really adds to the feeling of her identity being fragmented, cut in pieces. It’s also not clear if the thunderbolts are coming down from the clouds, or up from her hands. This hints at some unrecognized power on Anna’s part. Not sure if you meant to do that, but it’s there! All in all, a really interesting interpretation.


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