Last Updated September 5, 2023.
She continued to look at the person who was there, unknown to Paul. How very much, after all, she existed; she, Dora, and no one could destroy her.
In this passage, Dora contemplates her reflection in a mirror just before climbing into bed with her estranged husband, Paul. The quote reflects Dora’s view of what she wants to be: confident and self-assured. This is contrasted with her immediate submission to Paul’s sexual overtures, which are more like work orders than words of passion. Dora wants to believe she is strong enough to stand on her own, but she lacks the courage to truly do so.
Dora’s self-doubt is further captured in her relationship with Noel, the sometimes lover she has cavorted with during her marital separation:
"I can’t fight," said Dora. "I never could tell the difference between right and wrong anyway. But it doesn’t matter. . . "
Dora is quick to disclaim her own strength when Noel says he thought she was a fighter. Dora had left Imber without telling Paul to escape the boredom of the country, but an unexpected phone call from Paul to Noel’s flat startles Dora back to reality. Once again, Dora submits to her husband without his directly asking her to. This quote embodies Dora’s indecision and inability to trust her own instincts. Paul’s derisive comments about Dora are echoed in her own words here, further revealing how she lacks an independent identity.
By the end of the novel, Dora has finally rejected Paul completely and discovered what she is capable of on her own. On her last night at Imber, Dora decides to row into the lake alone and contemplate the place for the last time:
It was indeed as if, and there was comfort in the thought, when she herself left it Imber would cease to be. But in this moment, and it was its last moment, it belonged to her. She had survived.
Dora owes her arrival at self discovery to Imber Court and the experiences she had there. Furthermore, Dora claims ownership of her life and the direction in which it is headed, as well as the paths from which it has emerged. Instead of relying on others to dictate her actions, Dora finally acts for herself and accepts all responsibility for what happens as a result of her choices. The simple declaration that she "survived" indicates that Dora’s past mistakes and obstacles eventually led her to a place of inner peace and hope.