Literature / Jamaica Inn

A 1936 novel written by Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn tells the story of young Mary Yellan, who was brought up on a farm in Helford but had to go and live with her Aunt Patience after her mother died. Patience's husband, Joss Merlyn, a terrifying bully who is almost seven feet tall, is the keeper of Jamaica Inn.

On arriving at the gloomy and threatening inn, Mary finds her aunt in a ghost-like state under the thumb of the vicious Joss, and soon realizes that something unusual is afoot at the inn, which has no guests and is never open to the public. The plot follows a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the loot. It is an eerie period piece set in Cornwall in 1820; the real Jamaica Inn still exists and is a pub in the middle of Bodmin Moor.

Made into a 1939 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Charles Laughton and (in her first starring role) Maureen O'Hara.

Tropes in Jamaica Inn:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Mary is attracted to Jem, despite knowing that he is a horse thief.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Jem is considered this by many readers, but considering that this novel was written in the twenties and set over a hundred years before this, that he, Francis and Joss accept Mary's defiance of gender roles is quite remarkable.
  • Big Good: Squire Bassat acts as one more or less.
  • Boundand Gagged: Happens to Mary twice.
  • Creepy Uncle: While Joss despises Mary at the beginning of the novel, he comes to care for her and admits to having a 'soft spot' for her. He kisses her on the lips when she is injured and later suggests to her that if he were younger, he would have courted her.
    • Subverted/zig-zagged with Jem and Mary's romance, as he too is sort of her uncle (by marriage, anyway).
  • Evil Albino: The vicar, Francis Davey. A very progressive example, as society's reaction to him being different is cited as his reason, as opposed to him being simply an evil 'freak of nature'. Moreover, most albinos would make terrible gunmen owing to their bad eyesight, but Davey makes other people do his dirty work for him. Also, up till the point he reveals his true self, Mary trusts him absolutely.
  • Evil Uncle: Joss admits to Mary that he has murdered people.
  • Love Martyr: Aunt Patience to Joss.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Subverted. Terribly, terribly subverted.
  • Salvage Pirates: The wreckers.
  • Sinister Minister: Francis Davey.

The 1939 Alfred Hitchcock adaptation includes these tropes:

The 2014 BBC adaptation also includes these tropes:

  • Bottomless Magazines: A single-shot flintlock gun is fired three times without reloading.
  • The Unintelligible: Joss's lines were borderline inaudible, leading to numerous complaints. The BBC blamed it on problems with the sound mix.
  • Evil Albino: Averted. The character of Francis Davey was this is the original book, but this is not used for the sake of political correctness and for the understandable reason that it is in somewhat bad taste for a modern villain to be depicted in this way.