‘Jamaica Inn’ by Daphne Du Maurier – Plot Summary & Book Explained

Jamaica Inn

Have you been looking to dive into a classic gothic romance novel? Then you should check out Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier. This dark and atmospheric tale of mystery and suspense is set in 1820s Cornwall, England and will sweep you away into a world of danger and intrigue.

The story follows our heroine Mary Yellan, a young woman who is sent to live with her aunt at a remote coaching inn called Jamaica Inn after the death of her mother.

At first, Mary is charmed by the rough romance of the inn and its setting on the moors. But she soon discovers that it is the base of operations for a dangerous gang of wreckers and smugglers led by her uncle Joss Merlyn. Mary gets caught up in a web of lies, secrets, and murder as she struggles between following the law and protecting her only family.

Full of twists and turns, vivid descriptions of landscape, and complex characters, Jamaica Inn will pull you in and keep you guessing until the final page.

If you love brooding Gothic settings, historical fiction, and strong female protagonists, this classic page-turner set on the wild Cornish coast is sure to become one of your favourites.

So find a cosy spot to curl up, and prepare for an atmospheric tale of mystery, adventure, and dark secrets at the Jamaica Inn.

Jamaica Inn
Plot Summary of Jamaica Inn

The story is set in early 19th-century Cornwall, England. Mary Yellan’s mother has just died, so Mary goes to live with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss at Jamaica Inn. However, Mary soon discovers that the inn is used as a base by a gang of wreckers who lure ships onto the rocks to plunder their cargo.

Mary gets caught up in the wreckers’ evil schemes and struggles between her love for her uncle and her fear of the crimes he commits. She meets Jem Merlyn, a member of the wrecking gang, and although she is attracted to him, she knows he is involved in her uncle’s criminal plans.

One night, Mary overhears the wreckers planning their next raid. She rides to the harbour to warn the locals, who gather a posse to catch the wreckers red-handed. In the ensuing fight, Uncle Joss is killed. The leader of the wreckers, the savage Vicar Davey, and his henchmen are arrested.

With the wrecking gang disbanded and Jamaica Inn in disgrace, Jem decides to start a new honest life. He asks Mary to join him, and after initial hesitation, she accepts and leaves with him, hoping to put the troubled past behind them.

In the end, good triumphs over evil. Though filled with drama and darkness, Jamaica Inn is ultimately a story of hope, as Mary and Jem escape a life of crime in search of a new beginning.

Jamaica Inn
Analysis of Major Characters

The story follows Mary, a strong, independent and courageous heroine, especially for her time. Although surrounded by sinister men, she refuses to be intimidated and fights for truth and justice. Her goodness and spirit represent hope, even in the darkest of places.

Mary’s uncle, Joss Merlyn, is a cruel and sinister man involved in a smuggling ring. Mary struggles in this harsh, isolated environment and her only friend is her Uncle’s younger brother, Jem.

Jem is a complex character. Although he works with the smugglers, he shows kindness to Mary. You get the sense he is trapped in this criminal life and wants out. Mary sees goodness in him and believes he can change.

The villain Squire Bassat is pure evil. A magistrate in league with the smugglers, he hides his crimes behind a veneer of respectability. He represents the moral corruption of those in power.

The vicar, Francis Davey, is another complex and flawed character. At first, he seems to represent morality and justice, but then he succumbs to darkness by joining forces with Bassat and the smugglers.

In the end, Jem finds the courage to break from the smugglers but loses his life defending Mary. She escapes Jamaica Inn, her spirit unbroken, giving the reader a sense of hope amid tragedy. Overall, it’s a dark but moving story of good vs. evil in its many complex forms.

Themes and Symbols in the Novel

Jamaica Inn is full of themes and symbols that give the story deeper meaning. The central conflict of the story pits good against evil. Mary is a symbol of purity and goodness, while her uncle Joss Merlyn represents the evil that exists in the world. The smugglers that operate out of Jamaica Inn commit sinister crimes, highlighting the battle between moral and immoral forces.

Fear is a driving force behind many characters’ actions too. Mary is fearful of her uncle and aunt, while many locals are fearful of crossing Joss Merlyn. The smugglers use fear and intimidation to keep their illegal operations secret. However, Mary finds the courage to stand up to evil, demonstrating that fear can be overcome.

The moors surrounding Jamaica Inn represent isolation and loneliness. The inn is a solitary refuge for smugglers and outcasts, far from civilization. Mary is isolated from society living with her cruel relatives. The isolation of the setting reflects the inward struggle of good vs. evil and highlights Mary’s lonely battle against the dark forces that control Jamaica Inn.

Darkness is also commonly used to represent evil, danger and the unknown. Many pivotal scenes take place at night or in dimly lit areas like the secret smuggler’s hold. The darkness provides cover for sinister acts and a sense of mystery about what may emerge from the shadows. Light, on the other hand, represents hope, morality and truth.

Jamaica Inn is a dark tale of good triumphing over evil in a world filled with mystery, fear and isolation. But with courage and morality, light can emerge from even the darkest of places.

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