‘It was a cold grey day in late November.’ Thus begins Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. The dismal declaration of the weather foreshadows the uneasy tension surrounding the protagonist’s future new home at the Inn of the title. The specific details give realism to the story and make the initial journey in the coach bleak, monotonous and uncomfortable. The weather forms the first antagonist in the story and we suspect will be followed by others, perhaps of a more human variety.
The personification of the coach gives a Gothic animation to the journey and allows the protagonist, Mary Yelland to be introduced in a seemingly natural way. She is announced on the stage of wintry, foreboding weather. This stage reveals her introspection and stoicism. She is differentiated from the rest of the human on the coach, and we know intuitively that she is the heroine, because her fragility seems luminous despite the tumult outside the coach. Mary may be powerless against the storm, but leaving ‘home’ seems to hold more power over her and the future seems more dangerous than any hazard conjured by merely and predictably, bad weather.
Du Maurier is brilliant at creating foreboding atmospheres in her novels and stories. This opening uses pathetic fallacy in a complex way so that we expect Mary Yelland to transcend her problems because she is so sharply individuated from the petty concerns of the others in the coach. Mary is exceptional and her entrance into the novel subtly reveals this, through the animating devices of foul weather and the puny human transport involved.
The Woman in Black
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