Essay Example: Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier
In her biography, Forster states that on writing the savage Jamaica Inn, du Maurier sets out ‘to demonstrate the unevenness of the relationship between the sexes’ and to scrutinize and discover the roles, produced repeatedly right through the history of the Gothic genre, of ‘the man as brute and the woman as victim.'(121) He emphasizes that ‘Jamaica Inn was intentionally a melodramatic tale, in the manner of R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island.’ (qtd in Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster, 120) The novel is remarkable in its dealing with issues like sexuality and gender unlike her more intricate works where these topics incline to be baffled, vague and subtle. Jamaica Inn, on the other side, incarcerate, with a sense of raw proximity, all the misogynistic brutality it sets out to represent, and which is intrinsic, Mary Yellan finds, in patriarchal rule. The gallant protagonist in Maurier’s work inherits a sturdy if indistinct character and an intense hatred for the narrow, ethnically-defined identities to which society has conventionally demoted women. The author, from the very opening of her story positions the ill-fated and wretched Mary within a gender hierarchy in which she is forced to conform to a pre-defined female role, and which she plans from the beginning to dismantle. Mary, unlike her aunt doesn’t sticks to her so called feminine attributes and stands firmly to question uncle Joss who symbolizes traditional patriarchal structure.
In her book Powers of Horror Bulgarian-born French philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva theorises this association between the annihilation of borderlines, and the intense fright we might term Gothic anxiety. The disintegration or collapse of any firm division, the steadiness of which we trust under ordinary circumstances, serves viscerally to remind us, Kristeva insinuates, of prime fascination in a world epitomised by homogeneity and continuity, an archaic condition which predates the start of the oedipal journey, and in which we were still a part of the maternal body. This primitive stage of fantastic or imagined union with the mother figure, defined by the smudging of boundaries, is practiced in terms of an equally merged or fused duality of fear and desire, such that in Kristeva’s words it becomes ‘a vortex of summons and repulsion:’ attractive for the reason that it assures to reinstate a feeling of heavenly oneness, and repellent as the cost of such original contentment is total loss of subjectivity and, effectively, death. Thus the child passes through intensely opposing desires and longings: it both wants to unite with the maternal figure by reinstating a connection with the womb and separates or splits itself inhumanly away from her. It is this varying dilemma of incoherent desires from which the child disentangles or frees itself and places its first step on the firmer path to autonomous and self ruling identity, a process that amounts to sketching a line between itself and the maternal figure’a process Kristeva names abjection.
Within our own personal archaeology, [abjection is] our earliest attempts to release
the hold of the maternal entity even before ex- isting outside of her’.It is a violent,
clumsy breaking away, with the constant risk of falling back under the sway of a
power as securing as it is stifling. (13)
The child attains this foundational demarcation in an intense refusal of the profoundly seductive maternal, whereby she ceases to be a part of the infant and her familiarity becomes rapidly infused with a strange and foreign quality, suddenly abject. Kristeva’s abjection, unlike Freudian repression is an unending process, in which we ‘ceaselessly confront’otherness,’ and so persistently reconfirm, and shore up the boundaries of the self. That bizarre, weird, primal state, from which all divisions are lacking, inflected with its upsetting blending of attraction and repulsion never fades away. Instead it returns, over and over; confronting us under the disguise of something apparently repellent and foreign’in Kristeva’s own words, ‘a monster”but which eventually uncovers all the vagueness of that original condition. Made from the essentials with which we identify or connect on the one hand, and which we reject or discard on the other, this ‘inassimilable alien’ brings to mind abjection’s first maternal candidate and thus ‘simultaneously beseeches and pulverises the subject,’ ‘beckons to us, and ends up engulfing us.’ In this way the abject forces us to repeat the ‘jettison[ing]’ and ‘radical exclus[ion]’ first performed at the moment of primary separation, and so, in Kristeva’s words, ‘preserves the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be.’ Thus, primarily in the words of Jerrold Hogle, ‘the Gothic is’about the connection of abject monster figures with the primal and engulfing morass of the maternal.’ Nowhere does Mary move closer to non-identity than in that climactic scenario, played out on a black, mist-swathed mountain, in which she is isolated with the ‘ghostly’ (JI, 86) Vicar of Altarnun.
Mary, in the quest of a more realistic or true identity crosses the boundaries laid out for her in Jamaica inn, one which can hold the ‘masculine’ qualities that add to the intricacies and diversities intrinsic in her own character and as she does this discovers herself creeping closer to aggression, menace and death at anarchic male hands. She discovers that border-breaching has in reality a perilous domino effect and variation in one leads to variation in other. The destruction and wreckage of one effects other and thus leads to the destabilisation, and ultimately she finds herself hanging to that last barrier, combating to conserve the flimsy and fragile skin which holds her subjectivity together and defines her individual self. Du Maurier’s literary questioning of the boundary separating male from female, a divide bestowed with so much individual importance, offers way eventually to the fear, central in Gothic narrative and concisely expressed by Jerrold Hogle, that ‘something like a return to the confusion and loss of identity of being half inside and half outside the mother…may await us behind any old foundation…on which we try, by breaking it up, to build a brave new world.'(The Cambridge Companion to Gothic, 33) In Jamaica Inn, Mary finds herself in constant danger of transforming into her Aunt Patience, emblem of cowering, servile femaleness.
Mary, after her father’s death and before her life at Jamaica Inn a life forlorn with her mother and manly does the work of a farm labourer with complete determination reserved for young men. She is courageous and strong like men and never behaved like meek female but societal ideology forced her to follow the patriarchal ideology, as Forster asserts:
‘From the very first chapter Mary is a victim, first of circumstances and then of her uncle. She is full of ‘gallant courage’, but is told a girl cannot live alone and must have, after the death of her mother, the protection of a man, her uncle. Right from Mary’s first meeting with Joss his brutality revolts her. Had she been man, she would challenge him, but as a woman she cannot.’ (121)
This unconventional early training inculcates in her a great deal of valour and fearlessness and a ‘certain deep-grained common sense,’ (37) which compels other characters often to comment that she ‘ought to have [been] made… a boy’ (115). Certainly, Mary herself has the same opinion regarding herself and the novel gives plenty of evidences where she herself articulates, ‘Why were women such fools’?(64) and further being intensely aggravated with a sense of desolate aloofness, refers to ‘them’ as ‘frail things of straw’ (139). Mary makes efforts to disregard or abolish her own femininity and plans to forge ahead pretending as if she were male as she feels reluctant to term herself imprudent. ‘[Mary] would never marry, ‘we learn, ‘it was a long while since she had decided that. She would save money in some way and do a man’s work on a farm’ (122). She thus aspires to live a confident life like her mother who without any male counter partner has taken a very good care of herself and Mary. She wishes to live self-reliantly, dependently, independent of men and encumbered by socially defined restrictions on her gender but her dreams got shattered when she moves to Jamaica Inn. Within that suffocating surroundings Mary finds an unbearably exaggerated gender hierarchy as Joss Merlyn introduces his niece into his little kingdom, bawling the words ‘I am the master in this house….You’ll do as you’re told’ (23). Aunt Patience as her name symbolizes duly verifies both with her startling, haunted ghostly appearance, and her actions ‘like a whimpering dog…trained by constant cruelty to implicit obedience’ (20). Essentially, it is uncle Joss’s colossal physical built and hyperbolic masculine strength which makes his power structure so effectual, and which sets him explicitly at its summit. In the words of Nina Auerbach, Joss is a ‘giant…animalistic caricature of male violence,’ a sketch the accuracy of which becomes apparent upon taking into account du Maurier’s initial description of her Heathcliffian villain. Du Maurier brutalizes him by taking out human qualities and adding layer upon layer of brutal and merciless imagery, in such that the portrayal itself reverberates, in its excessiveness, his excess of male power.
He was a great husk of man; nearly seven feet high….He looked as if he had the strength of a horse, with immense powerful shoulders, long arms that reached almost to his knees and large fists like hams. His frame was so big that in a sense his head was dwarfed, and sunk beneath his shoulders, giving that half-stooping impression of a giant gorilla….(21-22)
Joss is archaic, animal force, barely attributed with humanity (his small mind advocates a rational dearth) and it become clear that in this harsh and ghastly world, to which Mary has half- heartedly moved, there exists an antiquated affiliation between supremacy and physical weight. He is thus a pastiche of bestial characteristics. His weight is a symbol of power and indeed throws his substantial bulk behind every order he delivers ‘Go up to bed Mary,’ he commands her, all authority, ‘or I’ll wring your neck’ (26). And moments later: ‘Now get out…I’ll break every bone in your body’ (27). Mary’s despair and anguish over her own sexual drives is harmonized by her consciousness of what Joss can do to her if he wishes.
Joss’s hierarchy, as it becomes evident from the unequal division of power across the sexes, is an atrocious and callous reductive system of power, in which all the intricacies of self are shorn of in favour of simple, inevitable anatomical fact. As she observes the wagons role into the courtyard of the Inn, this reality dawns for Mary.
Here she was on her bed, a girl of three and twenty, in a petticoat and a shawl, with no weapons…to oppose a fellow twice her age and eight times her strength who, if he realised she had watched the scene tonight from her window, would encircle her neck with his hand, and, pressing lightly with his finger and thumb, would put an end to her questioning. (49)
Under the menace of corporal mischief which already forces her into a maddening and unnervingly passive role which becomes a more unsettling and profound danger, one that makes those physiological differences, in terms of which Joss’s uncivilized or crude system works, stark and concrete to an even larger extent. Sexual harassment is something that is unconsciously omnipresent and the potential of sexual violent behaviour is a pervasive possibility for Mary, and one that is dormant in every threat her uncle makes. ‘I’ll break you,’ he howls, a deeply ambiguous statement, ‘until you eat out of my hand like your aunt yonder’ (23). Afterwards this implicit idea of rape, and its ultimate conquering power, becomes explicit: ‘Why, poor, weak thing,’ Joss says to his niece, ‘you know as well as I do I could’ve had you your first week at Jamaica Inn….You’re a woman after all. Yes, by heaven, and you’d be lying at my feet now, like your Aunt Patience, crushed’ (175). The threats of violation, intertwined with and often inseparable from those of Joss’s bodily dominion, seeks to render undeniable the ideologies of manly power and intrinsic womanly feebleness and vulnerability on which his gender hierarchy is constructed. Man’s display of power over women both physically as well as mentally and the physical threat she experiences highlights the bodily difference between men and women as Carter asserts, ‘It extracts all evidence of me from myself,’ she writes, ‘and leaves behind only a single aspect of my life as a mammal. It enlarges this aspect [until]….my symbolic value is primarily that of…receptivity, a dumb mouth from which the teeth have been pulled.'(Sadeian Woman, introduction) In nutshell, the rapist, rapes and treats his female victim keeping in mind the basic characteristics which define her as being submissive, lethargic and receptivity. She is objectified and is used merely as a silent and meek object that can’t even raise her voice to defend herself.
The act of defilement condenses and savagely entails the most coarse and unrefined patriarchal value structures, in which masculinity is allied with authority and power, and femininity with helplessness, sluggishness and ineluctable susceptibility. The menace of sexual dominion unnervingly exists in Jamaica Inn all the time and it assures to transform Mary into a version of her trembling, submissive, passive aunt, an effect the conviction of which Joss has overtly expressed. It is phallocentric ideology that has given no competing place to women as Irigaray in ‘This Sex Which Is Not One’ writes, ‘female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters’, and furthermore, ‘the ‘feminine’ is always described in terms of deficiency or atrophy, as the other side of the sex that alone holds a monopoly on value: the male sex’. The women are figured in masculine terms as a lack, a nothingness void of any meaning and an inversion or absence of the phallus in a phallocentric ideology and she is so by the horrified gaze of the patriarchy. Indeed, Auerbach proposes that ‘as a portrait of Mary’s own metamorphosis under Joss’s control, Patience’s terror is more frightening than Joss’s rages.’ Thus, caged and bordered in by the twofold prospects of broken bones and broken virtue, Mary, it appears, has little alternative but to ‘do as [she is] told,’ and play the monotonous part of female servility allocated to her by her uncle.
Mary is leading a life ruled by the brutal monarch and unwillingly works for him and ‘serve [Joss’s] customers’ (23) on nights when the Inn is unlock for dealings, so, it is during this time that Mary discovers herself in the hot, close interior of the bar, surrounded by the local low- life. Among this crooked crowd, she identifies ‘poachers, thieves [and] cattle stealers,’ and every individual’s anarchic degradation is echoed from their nasty and shabby exterior: ‘They were dirty for the most part,’ Mary observes, ‘ragged, ill-kept, with matted hair and broken nails’ (41). With the climax of their depraved celebrations, the gang people become grotesquely monstrous and begin to smear and stretch, appearing ‘shapeless and distorted, all hair and teeth, their mouths much too big for their bodies’ (42). Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection writes that
”any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject, but premeditated crime, cunning murder, hypocritical revenge are even more so because they heighten the display of such fragility’..Abjection, on the other hand, is immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady: a terror that dissembles, hatred that smiles, a passion that uses the body for barter instead of inflaming it, a debtor who sells you up, a friend who stabs you’ ‘
The dubious sense of horror Mary experiences, confronted with Jamaica’s unpleasant and noxious clients, exposes that this is something she learns and uncovers first-hand. ‘She felt a physical disgust rise up in her,’ (41) which, in terms of Kristeva’s thesis, indicate a violent denunciation of Joss’s riotus, wild company, and her wish to detach herself from them. Her corporal disgust makes Mary ultimately understands this parting when, having witnessed the dreadful temptation of a ‘poor half- witted fellow’ (41), she senses she can endure no more decadence and escapes from the bar. Joss is a man ridiculed by the inn’s customers and Du Maurier’s reproduces some of the bestial imagery formerly used to exemplify his extreme potency and savage nature.
The pedlar was making bait of the wretched idiot from Dozmary, who, crazy from drink, had no control of himself, and could not rise from the floor where he squatted like an animal. They lifted him onto a table and the pedlar made him repeat the words to one of his songs…and the poor beast, excited by the applause that greeted him, jigged up and down on the table, whinnying de light, plucking at his spotted purple birthmark with a broken fingernail. Mary could bear it no longer. (43)
Joss’s grotesquely bestial features are unceasingly highlighted and it is the cruelty of the pedlar and his companions which drives Mary from the room. It is their bestial outlook, brutality and the absence of sympathy which permits them to show their appreciation and chuckle at the abuse or exploitation of one of their gang members and it dehumanises the jeerers to a far larger extent than their unhappy victim. Later their monstrosity and cruelty is restated when the ill- fated prey, undressed of his clothes, is hunted from the inn, ‘bleating like a sheep’ (44) and pursued by a horde of men who, in terms of this simile, become voracious pack. Mary’s lack of admiration for the honour of human life is re-enforced when she leaves the bar and her uncle comments that the peril of rape, so persistent at Jamaica, is mainly looming or impending in the existing situations, and compounded by the number of his company. ‘Because you’re my niece they’ve let you alone, my dear,’ he tells her, ‘but if you hadn’t had that honour’by God there wouldn’t be much left of you now!’ (43). Carter refers to rape as ‘a kind of physical graffiti’ in which, she asserts; man and woman are ‘reduced to [their] formal elements…the probe and the fringed hole.’ She refers to the sexual difference in terms of lack of phallus:
[The penis] asserts. The hole is open, an inert space…. From this elementary iconography may be derived the whole metaphysic of sexual differences’man aspires; woman has no other function but to exist, waiting. The male is positive, an exclamation mark. Woman is negative. Between her legs lies nothing but zero, the sign for nothing…(‘Polemical Preface,’ the introduction to her book, The Sadeian Woman)
In this way, the actions of the revellers, exemplified as it is by nastiness and sexual indiscriminateness, reiterates on a broader scale the landlord’s own violent tricks, by which he sustains check and power over the women in his household.
Freud, in Civilization and its Discontents argues that it is noticeably evident in Joss Merlyn and his associates that they have aggressive tendencies towards violence and rape and are built into human nature. Though, they are more typically restricted or confined by cultural values set up to avoid the suspension of society through widespread murder and undiscerning sexual union. Freud puts forward that Culture, ‘has to use its utmost efforts in order to set limits to man’s aggressive instincts and to hold the manifestations of them in check by psychical reaction formations.’ It’s true that human beings reverts to a kind of animal savagery when stripped of these elementary laws and thus act on urge with absolute ferocity and lust, slaughtering and mating when and where they see fit. Freud’s description of true human nature draws a ferociously violent picture of man:
”…is that men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him.
Freud writes in summation, ‘Homo homini lupus,’ or, ‘man is a wolf to his fellow man,’ a phrase which du Maurier reverberates both in the hunt scene and more clearly, in her portrayal of Mary’s uncle. ‘The best things left to him were his teeth,’ the heroine observes, ‘when he smiled they…g[ave] him the hungry and lean appearance of a wolf. And though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same’ (22). The use of Du Maurier’s metaphor pictures the landlord and his patrons as Freud’s ‘savage beasts,’ a comparison towards which their displays of cruelty and threats of sexual abuse contribute. Being a husband he is expected to be affectionate and caring, but is ridiculously insane and treats his wife so inhumanly by crossing the boundary of being human. As Kristeva comments for his state as: ‘the in- between, the ambiguous, the composite’.(4) Mary’s mother had complete belief that her daughter is safe with her sister Patience and her husband Joss but he acts contrary to what is expected from him and treats Mary the same way he treats his meek and submissive wife. Joss’s most momentous and intensely inhuman aspect, of which all other instances of his monstrousness are perhaps suggestive` is exposed to Mary after she has sneaked down from her bed to spy on his underhanded transactions. She becomes aware of his evil and brutal intensions when she overhears him planning to hang one of his companions and thus comes to comprehend that he and his men are engaged in the killing business. His violent and destructive urge sighted mainly in the peril of rape, and later in the savage exploitation of a ‘half-witted’ boy, is suitably put into action as Joss and his as-yet-unknown companion murder a reluctant wrecker in cold blood. This inhuman instance makes du Maurier present the landlord as the wolf, ‘He [is],’ as Mary says, ‘a beast that walked by night’ (122). Being a slaughterer, Joss’s personality reveals the undeniable victory of animal urges over profoundly embedded, culturally raised hurdles designed particularly to inhibit them. Joss therefore challenges or subverts the social structure, dissolving one of its prohibitive laws, with the consequence that his aggressive and lecherous fancies meet little resistance and go brutish. Mary’s reaction to the knowledge she has obtained reminds that in addition to referring all crimes as abject, Kristeva also explicitly recognizes ‘those states where man strays on the territories of animal’ as candidates for the procedure of brutal rejection. Joss is awfully dreadful, not merely in his transgression of legal barriers, but also for the reason that his conducts effect an intensely uneasy merging of human with beast.
Mary felt her neck and her forehead go clammy with sweat, and her arms and legs were weighted suddenly, as though with lead. Little black specks flickered before her eyes, and with a growing sense of horror she realised that she was probably going to faint….Her knees were shaking now, and she knew that any moment they would give way beneath her. Already a surge of sickness rose inside her, and her head was swimming. (52)
Joss’s frontier personality makes him an abject figure and Mary’s bodily response to her uncle’s violence echoes, quite exclusively, the passages in Powers of Horror unfolding an encounter with the abject. Kristeva cites ‘spasms in the stomach,’ as symptomatic, along with perspiration of the forehead, and ‘sight-clouding dizziness’ which leads, in extreme cases, to the besieged subject ‘fall[ing] in a faint,’ thereby yielding to the weird borderlessness that has encompassed waking life. Joss exposes the permeability of profoundly ingrained barriers and thus sets into the world a sensation of pre-societal turmoil which scented of the undifferentiated womb that holds for Mary a ‘fatal fascination’ (71) thus, radiating a ailing magnetic pull that drags her from her bed in the middle of the night.
The sweat her body releases, and the drive to vomit that ‘r[ises] inside her,’ physically endorse a hysterical exclusion of this attraction to the site of the murder, which, if acted upon, will certainly deliver her to her own death, to suspension and emptiness. The corporal discharges encouragingly give Mary an idea that the fundamental distinction between that which is an element of her and that which is not (sweat, vomit) remains effectual. Thus, her encounter with the abject eventually reapproves all-essential borders which hold together her subjectivity, so that in a flash she is ‘brought to herself’ (52), fully conscious and alert again. Thus, the objective of abjection is to re- establish the presence of limits in the world carefully where the border-distorting monstrous, herald of mess and madness, threatens to take over. She decides to raise her voice against the horrific crime and to reveal his true identity by betraying him which will secure the boundaries and will set a limit to it. It will thereby also restore the human-animal distinction which subsides or disintegrates in his murderous deed. Hence, Mary’s resolution to inform against the landlord, product of her horrific encounter, replicates this damage of intimate boundaries on a grander scale. ‘She was determined to have the better of her uncle,’ we learn, and to ‘expose him and his confederates to the law’ (58). In this manner, Mary keenly and vigorously follows a world in which there are ordering boundaries, solid, steady and effectual. Nevertheless, her firmness or decisiveness to ‘proclaim his guilt’ (80) amounts to the violation of another, insistently or forcefully imposed law; one that Joss Merlyn himself has constructed, and which, more than any other, is the limit by which Mary’s meek and docile role at Jamaica Inn is constrained and defined. Joss represents authority and the part he entails Mary to perform is primarily one characterised by silence and passivity, a reality that becomes evident for the first time even before Mary has turned up at the inn. Even in the letter she obtains from her aunt before coming to Jamaica, silence is specified as the most chief and imperative clause of her stay. ‘I have asked your uncle,’ Patience tells her, ‘and he does not object, he says, if you are quiet spoken and not a talker’ (11). On her arrival Joss restates this clause with his vague promises to ‘break’ her, which is also a threat not to ‘open [her] mouth and squark’ (23). His constant emphasis on the word ‘silence’ signifies that being an autocrat he treats his wife as mere an object or robot that follows his orders without questioning and thus he expects the same from his niece- Mary. The same warning is replicated in the following exchange, this time escorted and stressed by a sample of the aggression and brutality which highlights the landlord’s hierarchy:
Bending down to her ear and seizing her wrist, he doubled it behind her back until she cried out in pain. ‘Alright,’ he said; ‘that’s like a foretaste of punishment, and you know what to expect. Keep your mouth shut and I’ll treat you like a lamb. (43)
Mary’s aunt, an epitome of capitulation, frequently wrecked by her husband’s savage brand of sexual domination, has had this order to ‘keep her mouth shut’ so acutely entrenched in the remains of her personality that, upon approaching a prohibited subject, she develops a kind of psychological disorder termed mutism i.e. a powerlessness to speak. ‘There’s bad things that happen at Jamaica Mary,’ she forewarns her niece, ‘I can never tell you; I can’t even admit them to myself’ (36). Her aunt Patience, as the name implies is a woman of great endurance and persistence and becomes Carter’s ‘dumb mouth’ as she is reduced through sexual and physical dominance to the same voiceless passivity as her genitals and it is apparent that, at the Inn and under the vicious domination of its beastish landlord, submissive femininity is inextricably bound up with silence. Mary’s pronouncement to deceive her uncle and the secrets of his business thus becomes the abuse of a law constraining gender. She proposes that by contravening Joss’s order and by violating the limits of the narrow female identity he has prescribed she engages in the dismantling of a boundary and affects a shift towards borderlessness.
Du Maurier imparts the walls of the lonely Jamaica inn, within which Joss’s verdict of unvoiced meekness rules explicitly, with all the repressive and tyrannical menace we have come to relate with the landlord himself. Mary asserts, the place is ‘evil,’ and seems to be depressing too, ‘When my uncle came to Jamaica Inn he must have cast his shadow over the good things, and they died’ (220). It is Joss’s evil spirit that has made everything in the Inn look evil and ominous. She finds herself somewhere trapped with her aunt in the inn, ‘like mice in a trap, unable to escape’ (23) and the gloomy house is to a great extent a concrete representation of the firmly restrictive part Joss’s power system has forced her to play: its ‘damp walls’ (220) hold her confined, overpowering her, as do the pre-defined limits of that submissive female role. Besides, the domestic household practice in which Mary becomes engrossed at Joss’s order, cleaning and washing as if she were the most domestic among women, she even forges an overt relationship between the inn and her identity. The Gothic prison is terrible not only because of the dreadful villain who rules it, but also because of the ‘the woman’s work’ its conservation requires. Mary’s condition is somehow paralleled with Inn as Mary’s awkwardly servile position is tied to the creepy building whose floors she so often finds herself scrubbing. In this light, it is no wonder that the moors encircling Jamaica Inn, ‘like an immense desert’ (37), come to be associated with a sense of liberty, muffled as Mary is in the inn’s dark interior by Joss’s heavy hand.
One hill would be golden brown, while his neighbour still languished in the dark…..It would be the glory of high noon to the east, with the moor as motionless as desert sand; and away westward arctic winter fell upon the hills, brought by a jagged cloud… that cast hail and snow and a sharp spittle rain on to the granite tor…. There was a challenge in the air that spurred Mary to adventure. (32)
On the open Cornish moors, boundaries as ingrained as the granite walls of Jamaica Inn become porous to the level that the landscape exhibits at once a multitude of persistently jerky and inconsistent characteristics expressed through binaries: it is both light and dark, warm and cold, summer and winter, and, in this manner, the supreme setting for Mary’s transgression of gender barriers. In a letter to Ellen Doubleday, du Maurier identifies her lonely Cornwall home as the site in which her own complex identity is allowed to drift towards gender hybridity. Referring to herself in third person she writes, ‘She found menabilly, and lived in it alone,’ she writes, referring to herself in the third person, ‘and let the phantom, who was neither boy nor girl, but disembodied spirit dance in the evening when there was no one to see.’ (qtd in article, Daphne du Maurier, English writer by Fiona Hurley )
Mary discloses her uncle’s violent laws to her chosen confessor that has stretched all over the marshland and silent tors on Bodmin Moor, and equally apt that he is primarily portrayed, in terms which explicitly echo du Maurier’s letter, as a ‘ghostly figure’ (86).
Indeed, the Vicar of Altarnun’s albinism serves as an apparent indicator of the incongruities in his character, which run far deeper than his skin. As the narrative advances, it becomes evidently apparent that his masculinity is different from the masculinity of other characters. Rather he crystallises the freedom from gender towards which Mary, targets on violating out from her standard female role, is travelling: he is, Zlosnik and Horner suggest, of hybrid sexuality, neither man nor woman, but hermaphrodite. He recollects the author’s ‘disembodied spirit,’ and it is possibly this resemblance from which his ghostly manifestation, like ‘a shadow of a man’ (129), obtains, along with some of his scorn for the society in which he lives. Du Maurier persuaded herself and explains to Ellen that her own internal spectre was above all not ‘sweet and good and kind,’ but rather ‘the person who dances alone…thumbing her nose at the world.’ (qtd. In Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster, 224) Francis Davey’s vague or unspecified gendering is constantly highlighted throughout the novel as is evident that though seemingly a man, he is devoid of ‘male aggression’ (129) and his voice too is ‘like the voice of a woman’ (144). He exhibits no masculine excitement when Mary, whose charm is repeatedly restated, strips off in front of him, but simply stares at her ‘in cold indifference’ (144). His lack of sexual instinct is rendered in no doubt when, upon holding her out to the marshes, the Vicar tells his victim that he has ‘neither the mind nor the desire to touch [her]’ (255). Therefore, beneath his ethereal exterior, the very blank neutrality of which signals an asexuality, Davey is of deeply complex construction, smearing the limits or boundaries between genders just as the moor, from which he so rapidly transpires, dissipates those separating summer from winter, cold from warmth.
Mary finds herself comfortable to reveal all the secrets of Jamaica Inn to the Vicar as he is seduced by the strange blending of male and female qualities, a blend which speaks to her own desire to move beyond the confines or borders of her gender. ‘His soft persuasive voice,’ shortly recognized as typically feminine and a mark of his hermaphroditic character, ‘would compel her to admit every secret her heart possessed’ (92). Mary knowingly, ‘scarcely aware of how it happened’ (90) demolishes her uncle’s most important law of silence and blows up the firm boundaries of her predefined female identity. Mary without any knowledge that this duplicity of the landlord or this act of insolent gender transgression astounds Davey and causes him to single her out, in the narrative’s final stages, as a kindred spirit, a potential companion. ‘You have proved yourself a dangerous opponent,’ he compliments her, directing to the war she has effectively instigated against Joss the patriarch, ‘I prefer you by my side’ (254). The Vicar openly and confidently exposes himself as both her uncle’s murderer and the mastermind behind the wrecking exploits and it becomes steadily comprehensive that a destabilisation of the gender binary, of the kind in which Mary herself has engaged cannot take effect in seclusion, but must result in the destabilization of other important boundaries. In Davey’s character it is not only the line between masculinity and femininity that is made vague but an enormity of oppositions subside under his blank, white disguise, to the point that he is pictured as psychopathic, and alarmingly other, both enemy and friend, traitor and confidant, murderer and saviour. Mary somewhere feels that the boundary which is enclosing her is battered and is now giving her way to escape: ‘she thought how very far removed from any sphere of life they were; two beings flung together in eternity, and this was a nightmare with no day to follow, so that soon she must lose herself, and merge into his shadow’ (253). Blackness appears to stretch out before her with its everlasting quality and has lead to the loss of subjectivity and identity. ‘You’ll soon cast your mannerisms aside,’ the Vicar soothingly threatens and anticipates Mary’s inexorable loss of self, ‘and all the poor trappings of civilization you sucked into your system as a child’ (247).
He overtly mentions a regression into the pre-logical state of infancy, of primal unity with mother’s body, from which self comes to life and perpetually after fights the desire to return. Davey persuades her, ‘Give way to nature, Mary Yellan’ (254) and she discovers herself transported into a weird dark world, epitomized by the charmingly amniotic pulsing sound of ‘a thousand feet,’ and crowded with primeval creatures that ‘looked through her and beyond’ thus indicating her lack of substance, her increasing suspension (254). This indefinite archaic hell is a place without borders, the final destination of her quest to transgress the bounds of her gender, and it is petrifying.
Mary undergoes boundless and inexhaustible mess and disorder which is born out from the breaking of a gender boundary and thus ultimately drives her into the arms of Jem. Mary has been truthful and open throughout the novel about her attraction to Jem relating it in simple chemical terms as a predestined, ineffaceable pull, ascertained by physiological elements outside her control. ‘She knew she could love him,’ we learn, ‘Nature cared nothing for prejudice’ (122). She assumes Jem to be like the landlord, ‘a murderer of men’ (124) and attempts to suppress her growing desire for him. She even presumed him to be the mastermind behind the operation and one responsible for ordering the death of that ill-fated wrecker who tried to desert his gang: ‘A horrible suspicion came into her mind. Could it have been Jem who had hidden in the empty guest room that Saturday night’? and that thought horrified her and ‘Something went cold inside her’ (107).
The implications of this possibility are comprehensive, with repercussion affecting not only the light in which Jem is cast, but Mary’s own character as well. The Merlyn brothers are almost identical. They resemble physically too and their faces in specific, are markedly similar, presenting the same ‘drooping lids’, the same ‘curve of [the] mouth’, and ‘outline of [the] jaw’ (61). Jem, unlike her brother shares none of the bestial features and is without Joss’s massive brutishness and it echo the landlord’s savage nature. Jem, the younger Merlyn is ‘smaller in build and height, neater in person’ (63), a ‘head and shoulders’ shorter than his brother, and ‘half the breadth’ (64). The two brothers similarly separated by the sense of degradation, mark of a brutal, wicked lifestyle, which hangs about Joss, but by which Jem is not tainted or corrupted. ‘The landlord sagged round the chin,’ Mary examines, ‘and his shoulders weighed on him like a burden. It was as though his power was wasted in some way, and had run to seed'(64). By contrast, the younger sibling remains ‘hard and keen,’ gifted with ‘certain strength the eldest brother did not possess’ (64). Mary apprehends that Jem is ‘what Joss Merlyn might have been, eighteen, twenty years ago,’ (63) and if he does not, in her words, ‘pull himself together,’ (64) then Joss, his older brother stands before him, an image of his future self. Indeed this transformation comes into effect instantly if Jem is the killer Mary anxiously suspects him to be. On the way back from Launceton with Francis Davey she is tormented by the possibility of his guilt.
Somewhere in the dark places of her mind an image fought for recognition and found
its way into the light, having no mercy for her feelings. It was the face of Jem Merlyn, the man she loved, grown evil and distorted, merging horribly and finally into that of his brother (150).
Jem, as a murderer takes on all the savage cruelty of character by which his brother is identified, and is presented to have wolfish feature. His guiltiness will seal the narrow but critical space or gap between the two men, revealing Jem to be as much a creature of dark desire as the landlord; one to whom, in Freud’s words, ‘consideration towards his own kind is something alien’ enough to kill, and thus alien enough to rape and torture as well. This merging is devastating and even after being convinced that young Merlyn is a murderer, she is unable to neutralise her attraction and desire for Jem threatens overwhelmingly to slip into a desire for Joss. Kristeva’s concept of the abject thereby becomes a concept which enables them to define how shared constructions of ‘otherness’ are predicated upon shared cultural values at specific times: by this logic, you may know a culture by what is ‘throws off’ or abjects’. The figure of abjection in a Gothic text may, of course, be presented as simultaneously repellent and charismatic, thus allowing the reader to indulge in a transgressive redefinition of ‘self’. So, viewing from Mary’s suspectful mind, Jem is an abject body that is a threat to society the way uncle Joss is and need to be ‘cast out’. Jem, being an abject figure now has both the sense of attraction and repulsion. Mary doubts him and tries her level best to stay away from him but still a sense of attraction forces her to be attracted towards him.
After the devastating wrecking on Christmas Eve, Mary’s uncle confesses he has ‘a soft spot’ for her; an ominous assertion escorted by a suggestive ‘flicker of meaning in his eyes,’ and in which he ‘laid his fingers on her mouth’ (187). Her ambivalent reaction is alarming, and reveals the extent to which she has come, desolately, to envision of the two brothers as identical.
She went then to her bed, and sat down upon it, her hands in her lap; and, for some reason forever unexplained, thrust away from her later and forgotten, side by side with the little old sins of childhood and those dreams never acknowledged to the sturdy day, she put her fingers to her lips as he had done, and let them stray thence to her cheek and back again. And she began to cry softly and secretly, the tears tasting bitter as they fell upon her hand. (187-8)
Mary, while introspecting herself, finds herself fascinated to a murdering facsimile of her uncle, finds herself perilously close to his wife’s position of utmost female degradation, enormously susceptible to dominion at the hands of a persecutor who is both inhuman and adored and it is this which worries her most of all. Aunt Patience is a passive woman and ‘She thought of Aunt Patience trailing like a ghost in the shadow of her master. That would be Mary Yellan too but for her own..strength of will’ (139). Her determination, however, confirms to be weaker than expected, and soon she finds herself occupied in an emotional defence of Jem’s character, which specifically echoes Patience’s make-believe vindications of her own husband. ‘Jem had denied nothing,’ Mary unwillingly admits, ‘And now she ranged herself on his side, she defended him…without reason and against her sane judgement, bound to him already because of his hands on her and a kiss in the dark’ (145). She represses her desire for Jem primarily because it threatens to demote her to that role occupied by her cowering, servile aunt, into which her uncle has assured. Mary has witnessed the treatment given to her Aunt Patience which was full of threats and horror of being raped.
Knowing the reality about Jem from Francis Davey that he is innocent, and in addition, has accomplished her desired deeds, Mary was confident that, ‘Nothing mattered now because the man she loved was free and had no stain of blood upon him,’ Mary thinks to herself in ecstasy, ‘She could love him without shame, and cry it aloud had she the mind’ (247). Jem’s virtuousness has nullified all of her misgivings and suspicions and his difference from his brother has given her a sense of relief and confidence that she is now free to love him unfettered by a terror that she might once more find herself caught with a murderous beast in a brutal gender hierarchy, the likes of which she has suffered at Jamaica Inn. Her choice to go with him at the novel’s close is, by this account, a happy one. With both villains, and their respective threats, banished from the narrative, the way into their future lies cleared before the couple.
Auerbach, in her book Haunted Heiress reminds us that Jamaica Inn has constantly been considered a romance, the genre to which, Janice Radway has written, ‘a happy ending is indispensable,’ and certainly the novel’s final passage in which Mary, quite plainly, rides into the sunset with her lover, emerges to gratify this criterion. Though, du Maurier’s conclusions are perpetually more composite than this, and while Jamaica Inn may fall more evidently into the category of ‘happy-ending’ narratives than the author’s later work, there remains a sense of disquiet which infuses or pervades those last pages and finely emasculates the story’s evidently unproblematic resolution. This lasting unease echoes mainly from the disbelief that Mary’s decision to follow Jem in fact implicates very little choice. As Auerbach has written of the narrative’s end: ‘by now, she has nowhere else to go.’ Mary, after her experience with the Vicar on the moors finds herself faced with two dispersed life paths: to stay at North Hill as governess to the Bassat children, or to return to Helford in pursuit of her dream of independence and ‘try and start the farm again’ (263). Though, neither of these choices or options is, in light of her experiences, a reasonable option. The first signals, as Zlosnik and Horner point out, a life of ‘servitude,’ and one which is similarly defined by the imposed limits of the female, child- minding role. Thus, in the subservience it requires, and in virtue of its pre-defined boundaries, this position recalls something of the aggressively imposed identity into which Mary found herself forced at Jamaica Inn. The second choice, to live by herself on a farm, doing, as she has always planned, ‘a man’s work’ (122), indicates a perilous destabilisation of the gender binary, of the kind that has delivered Mary into the hands of the Vicar. In reality, at the narrative’s very beginning, her mother has warned her against such a lifestyle: ‘A girl can’t live alone,’ she tells her daughter, ‘she goes queer in the head or comes to evil’ (10). Thus Jem, and his offer of a ‘hard life’ (266), is the only practical choice. In his wandering existence there is no conventional female identity in which she may become trapped, and at the same time, no danger of genderless chaos: she has clearly stated, after all, that ‘Jem Merlyn [is] a man, and she [is] a woman,’ (123), and it is on this fundamental difference that their heterosexual relationship is founded. She is a confident girl in the traditional patriarchal society who is well aware of the roles genders play. In this light the narrative’s happy ending comes into focus, tempered by a grim sense of necessity. ‘Why are you sitting beside me’? Jem asks, in the novel’s final lines, and in her reply, Mary tells him ‘Because I must’ (267). So Mary chooses a life which is not enforced on her but is what she chose herself. She found her happiness in Jem and decides to live being equal to him. She gets into Jem’s cart, ‘[b]ecause I want to; because I must; because now and for ever this is where I belong to be’. (308) Forster asserts that, ‘she had wanted to write about the balancing of power in marriage and not about love’ (137-138)