Jean Rhys Reading Week discussion

Good Morning, Midnight
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Good Morning, Midnight

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Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Discuss Jean Rhys' fourth novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939)

message 2: by Margaret (new)

Margaret (sorefoot) | 4 comments This a post from my blog

Yes, but why?

Rhys and James Joyce both end novels with the word ‘yes,’ Joyce, famously, Ulysses and Rhys (somewhat obscurely) Good Morning, Midnight. Joyce has Molly Bloom recalling the time before her marriage:

“and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.”

An avowal of life and loving and, presumably, acceptance of a marriage proposal. But, Sasha Jansen (GMM), at the end of desire for life or love, chooses to let herself agree to be used by the ghastly man in the room next to hers, in the cheap hotel where she stays:

“I look straight into his eyes and despise another poor devil of a human being for the last time. For the last time . . . . Then I put my arms around him and pull him down on to the bed, saying: “Yes–yes–yes . . .”

Her obsessive idea of having a kind of moral duty (the ideal of chic) to align herself with the hopeless bohemian poor against bourgeois respectability (despite her desire for luxury) feeds her depression. At the lowest point of her self-hating life, she sinks to the depths of her philosophy. To despise this fellow “poor devil” would be dishonest, would not be chic.

Two modernist writers with opposite points of view.

Tonymess | 3 comments This is a quote taken from 'Good Morning, Midnight." However I'm more interested in its relevancy to all of Rhys' work.

This happened in London, and the kitchen belonged to the couple in the flat above – a German hairdresser and his English wife. The kitten had an inferiority complex and persecution mania and nostalgie de la boue and all the rest. You could see it in her eyes, her terrible eyes, that knew her fate. She was very thin, scraggy and hunted, with those eyes that knew her fate. Well, all the male cats in the neighbourhood were on to her like one o'clock. She got a sore on her neck, and the sore on her neck got worse. "Disgusting," said the German hairdressers' English wife. "She ought to be put away, that cat." Then the kitten, feeling what was in the wind, came down into my room. She crouched against the wall, staring at me with those terrible eyes and with that big sore on the back of her neck. She wouldn't eat, she snarled at caresses. She just crouched in the corner of the room, staring at me. After a bit of this I couldn't stand it any longer and I shooed her out. Very reluctantly she went at first, with those eyes still staring at me. And then like an arrow through the door and down the stairs. I thought about her all the rest of that day and in the evening I said: "I chased the unfortunate kitten out of my room. I'm worried about her. Is she all right?" "Oh, haven't you heard?" they said. "She got run over. Mrs Greiner was going to take her to the chemist's to be put away, and she ran right out into the street." Right out into the street and a merciful taxi went over her…

How like the kitten are all of Rhys' female protagonists?

message 4: by JacquiWine (new)

JacquiWine | 22 comments Mod
Great question, Tony. While I've yet to read GMM, I do recognise many of the traits of Rhys' women in that quote about the kitten. To an extent, they feel marginalised by respectable society, forever the outsider looking in. Deep down they are vulnerable and frightened, and want to be loved, but warmth and affection is hard to come by in the cruel world in which they find themselves. There is a terrible prescience about their fate. Life for these women is terrifying - harsh and exhausting in fairly equal measure. It reminds me of a passage from Rhys' notebooks I stumbled upon the other day: “Oh God, I’m only twenty and I’ll have to go on living, and living and living.” I think she uses a similar quote in one of her novels, possibly Voyage in the Dark.

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Margaret wrote: "Yes, but why?"

Great question, Margaret. This is a fascinating thing about Good Morning, Midnight. To me, it felt like she was inviting in a kind of self destruction.
It would have been so interesting to hear what Rhys had to say and if she meant it as a direct response to Joyce.

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Today I'm discussing Good Morning, Midnight on my blog and I have an interview with Jessica Harrison, Senior Commissioning Editor for Penguin Classics She tells me why Penguin chose to include this title in their Pocket Penguins series and offers some fascinating insights into how this novel fits into Rhys' oeuvre.

message 7: by Margaret (last edited Sep 18, 2016 09:22AM) (new)

Margaret (sorefoot) | 4 comments Tonymess, Yes, that kitten is certainly Sasha, as well as others of her protagonists, who have felt as hopeless and longed for a merciful end. I have a review on my blog

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