When confronted with Jean Rhys’s narratives, the reader may think of Rosalind Coward’s question: ‘Are women’s novels feminist novels?’1 Of course, Jean Rhys states various cases of women’s oppression by patriarchal society, but her heroines’ attitude towards their predicament as women is more often than not problematic. Far from seeking emancipation, they seem to apply themselves to cultivating their subjection. This collaborative tendency is particularly prominent in the first novel, Quartet, published in 1928, in which a young woman, Marya Zelli, left alone in Paris as her husband serves a year’s sentence in prison, is manipulated by the Heidlers, the couple who ‘rescue’ her from loneliness and destitution. What Quartet is based upon is the typical scenario of a woman’s victimization, which leads Coral Ann Howells, for example, to describe it as ‘a Modernist version of Gothic’.2 Moreover, inspired by Jean Rhys’s affair with Ford Madox Ford, who was then living with Stella Bowen and supervised Jean Rhys’s advent as a writer,3Quartet may be seen as giving Susan Gubar a case in point when she argues that twentieth-century women often see ‘the emergence of their talent as an infusion from a male master’ who ‘causes the woman writer to feel her words are being expressed from her rather than by her’.4 To be sure, Jean Rhys’s narrative does not unsettle the traditional balance of power between the sexes.
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- Quartet: The ‘Authored’ Woman
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