Why du Maurier’s JAMAICA INN Is Epic

There’s a scene where Mary Yellan is trying to escape from . . . take self’s word for it, something evil.

Across her path, Harry the pedlar. A man seemingly mild, not too smart. He nods at her, “reassuring . . . smiling . . . smirking and sly . . . ” Then he lands a “furtive hand” on her. And her reaction?

She moves “swiftly, lashing out at him, and her fist caught him underneath the chin, shutting his mouth like a trap, with his tongue caught between his teeth. He squealed like a rabbit, and she struck him again, but this time he grabbed at her and lurched sideways upon her, all pretense of gentle persuasion gone, his strength horrible, his face drained of all colour. He was fighting now for possession, and she knew it . . . ”

du Maurier shows us how the man’s affect changes from moment to moment: first he is smiling, then he is sly, then he is furtive, and then he attacks.

But every step of his transformation, Mary Yellan meets fiercely.

This is a woman who has been raised on a farm, who has known only friendly neighbors. Having spent an entire quarter at Stanford reading Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, self was steeling herself for only one outcome. But du Maurier had something else in mind.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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