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Psychological Realism in Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Updated on March 26, 2010

“Good morning, Midnight” by Jean Rhys presents a narrative on the life of its main character Sasha Jensen. In the story Sasha Jansen comes to Paris using borrowed money to reminisce the past and purge the pain that haunts her.

Jean Rhys expertly employs her own brand of tragicomedy in this story.  Tragicomedy is when the boundaries of comedy and tragedy dissolves.  This she employs to portray psychological realism of Sasha’s life which many believes is a story of her own life.  Rhys has the distinctive style of dry humor and quick wit which she utilizes on her characters. 

Rhys is very adept in injecting funny moments in somber scenes.  For instance, she writes of Sasha Jensen observing a group of women, “fifteen women in a queue, each clutching her penny, not one bold spirit to dash out of her turn past the stern-faced attendant. That’s what I call discipline” (10). 

The same way that James Joyce employs internal monologues in his characters, Rhys also uses similar style.  Helen Carr notes that there is a “melancholy haze through which her work is often read” (77).   Rhys novels are filled with irony, farce and internal conversations of a character and Good Morning Midnight is of no exception to her brand of narrative style. 

Rhys also employs flashbacks in the past.  In the book one can see the main character Sasha Jensen constantly looking back to her past as she walks through the streets of Paris. “Here this happened, here that happened” (Rhys 15). People and places serve as painful and constant reminder of what she left behind. 

These flashbacks and internal monologues are used by Rhys to better illustrate and understand the inner workings of Sasha’s mind. These techniques, of course, lend psychological realism to the story.

The rooms and street she passed by recalls her past like a film rolling before her eyes.  “This damned room – it’s saturated with the past. . . . It’s all the rooms I’ve ever slept in, all the streets I’ve ever walked in. Now the whole thing moves in an ordered, undulating procession past my eyes. Rooms, streets, streets, rooms. . . .” (109).

The story may be told in first person and serves as a recollection of Sasha’s past but there are some doubts as to the veracity of her accounts.  This is largely because her narrations are clouded by the use of alcohol and luminal ( sleeping pill).

This reveals Sasha’s uncertainties particularly on her very own identity.  Sasha describes herself, through the imagined perception of other perople, as an old woman or “la vieille” [sic] (41).

Her indecisiveness extends to her views in life.  As the story unfolds, one can understand the reason why Sasha is depressed.  She recalls all that has transpired while she lived in Paris – her job as a mannequin and shop assistant, the death of her love Enno and the death of her baby son.  There's a flashback when looks at her dead baby.  She simply says, 'no wrinkle' as if she doesn’t care.
Sasha does not have a truly positive encounter with men as all of the men in her life disappointed her.  For instance, the love of her life, Enno, and her father, both left her which made her feel empty and abandoned.   She does not trust men, to the point that she does not trust herself to trust men.

Sasha’s emotions fluctuate quickly.  Rhys makes use of short paragraphs and sentences to demonstrate this. The whole idea of the book is like a documentation of inward reflection of Sasha’s uneventful life. The story does not have major climaxes.
Later, Sasha meets Rene, a young gigolo who offers her hope.  She likes him a lot but Sasha’s low self-esteem leads her to reject his advances. As the novel ends, one finds Sasha seeking comfort in the arms of her strange neighbor whom she, ironically, dislikes. 

The beauty of Sasha is she just doesn’t tell her story, she actually lives it.  In her mind, she dwells in the past. She merges the present with what happens in the past.  Rhys’ depiction of female consciousness and experiences is flawless.  Sasha’s life may be depressing but there is one redeeming quality in her  which is her sense of humor.  She sees funny things even in the most difficult circumstances.  She understands the comedy and tragedy of life.  That is why the end of the story may appear quiet terrifying to some but not to Sasha because she understands life’s ironies.


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      Kuro 2 years ago

      - Sasha,You SO deserve to be inlcdued in this list of ICONS. You are a risk taker, a mover-shaker and do things your way staying true to yourself, your style, your core values. You push boundaries, challenge the status quo and that takes chutzpah to put yourself out there like that, knowing not only your product will face critics (good and bad) but yourself as an artist will as well. BUT, that is what ICONS do and we are grateful for them because, if we are smart, we pay attention and learn from ICONS on how to be better at being our best selves at what we do as well. Hope we can have another one of those amazing talks like we did at Catersource/ES real soon. Enjoy your presentation in NYC and I know you will be fabulous and inspiring as always. You certainly inspire ME!T.