As well as the literal prison Rhys writes about in Quartet, she frequently portrays metaphorical prisons and spaces in her work. Much of her fiction creates this sense of being trapped, a claustrophobic feeling that has much to do with the spaces she encloses her protagonists in, the rooms and streets, or their lives and circumstances. The city surrounds from all sides, walls close in, and sometimes spaces appear to be shrinking, pavements and passages are narrow and enclosing. Rhys chooses these spaces deliberately as she wants to reflect in them the state of mind of her characters, and more than once she takes the image of a band of iron growing tighter, encircling the heart like a tight grip of anxiety that refuses to let go.
‘My own words were not enough, only another’s could transform misery into inspiration.’ This encounter with another’s words and its capacity to change, to alter or steer one a certain way – the all important journey of the mind – is what I’m reaching for in my own work. And although I feel temporarily silenced by my admiration for Patti Smith’s essay, for its clarity and precision, by my wish to craft my own writing in a similar way, I know at least the flow of ideas begins by breaking the silence. Reading other’s words starts off the trail, the invisible connecting lines and the flow of thoughts; like walking.