A Visit by Anna Kavan
In A Visit by Anna Kavan we have the theme of connection, desire, loneliness, letting go, isolation, contentment, responsibility and companionship. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman the reader realises after reading the story that Kavan may be exploring the theme of connection. There is a sense that rather than being afraid of the leopard when he enters her room the narrator feels a connection with him. She admires his body particularly his strength and some critics might suggest that the leopard is symbolism for male companionship. Something which is lacking in the narrator’s life. It is also interesting that the narrator at no time tells anybody about the leopard. It is her secret and one she appears to enjoy keeping. This too could be important as symbolically Kavan could be suggesting or attempting to highlight the significance of companionship (intimate) and keeping such matters private. The leopard after all does sleep in the same bed as the narrator. A place one would expect a lover or husband or wife to sleep. It is also possible that Kavan is placing an emphasis on the loneliness the narrator feels. Throughout the story there is no mention of the narrator having a friend or partner that fills the void she feels after the leopard leaves.
If anything the narrator lacks the balance that masculinity might bring and is focusing her attention on the leopard whereas the reality should be she should most likely focus on her desire for companionship with another human being. Though this may not be something that the narrator is overly aware of at the time. As far as the narrator is concerned she has made a connection with the leopard and does not see the possibility that the leopard might signify her desire to find companionship with a man. Though it is interesting that the narrator does on two occasions try to communicate with the man in the red cloak believing him to be the leopard in a different form. It might also be important that the narrator never lets go of the opportunity that she might see the leopard again. It is as though she is somewhat aware of a void in her life though she is unable to pinpoint it exactly. It may also be significant that the narrator gives up on asking the local people about the man in the red cloak or about the leopard as she feels as though they might not understand. This may draw in the theme of isolation and the very fact that the narrator might feel isolated from those around her.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is important. Throughout the story the reader is given an insight into the natural world around the narrator. It is possible that by doing so Kavan is suggesting that the narrator is comfortable in her environment except for the fact that she misses the leopard (or a man). Also at moments in the story when it is exceptionally warm the narrator finds happiness. First when the leopard comes into her room and secondly when the heat grows day by day the narrator finds contentment and is productive in the work that she has to do (mural). However there is an occasion in whereby the heat makes the narrator dizzy which could suggest that the narrator is not feeling as she should be feeling. That she may not necessarily be content. Though in general Kavan appears to be using the heat mentioned in the story to symbolically suggest that the narrator is happy or has found a brief moment of contentment.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator appears to blame herself for the fact that she never sees the leopard again. This might be considered to be a moment of realisation or an epiphany and it is possible that the narrator realises that she needs male companionship in her life. The hurt she feels over losing the leopard may have awoken the narrator to a point in where she realises what the problem is with her life. Though independent of others the narrator is not happy and may only find contentment when she takes the steps required to find companionship. That being to engage productively with the world around her and not to isolate herself in the manner that she does. As to whether the narrator will change or fully let go of the leopard is difficult to say. The leopard has brought the narrator happiness and she may simply be unprepared to continue living her life as she does. Knowing that by isolating herself from others she is unable to grow in the manner she would like to. However the final paragraph in the story suggests that the narrator is still living her life as she has previously lived it. It is possible that the narrator due to the fact she blames herself for what has happened doesn’t realise that she also has the ability to change the direction of her life.