‘Mannequin’ by Jean Rhys

A story for September

This short story opens with Anna, dressed in black, searching along dark passages in the Parisian couture house where she works. She’s paraded around, alongside other doll-like models. For Anna, it’s a strange, exhausting dream. At the close of the story, a feeling of freedom rises, escape, movement: “All up the street the mannequins were coming out of the shops, pausing on the pavements a moment, making them as gay and as beautiful as beds of flowers before they walked swiftly away and the Paris night swallowed them up.” I admire Rhys’ handling of the subject—women’s bodies as commodities—and her spare, terse language, each word chosen like it’s a precious thing. 

Originally published in The Left Bank and Other Stories 1927, Later collected in The Collected Short Stories, Norton 1992. Available to read here

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