Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Jean Rhy’s novel Good Morning, Midnight was not liked when first published, but recently, it has received enough attention as an item of study for different scholars. It presents different characters with some traits that readers can relate to what happens in the society. This study uses a feminist approach to analyze the literature while paying attention to the protagonist Sasha Jensen who walks and wanders through the city of Paris, which is filled with different memories, both good and bad (Rhys 11).
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Through Sasha’s narration in the novel, the readers see a disappointed woman who does not have anything significant to look up to. One important question that this study seeks to discuss is whether this piece of literature is worth considering for feminist study. Importantly, one would expect that a feminist literature should lift up the position of women, which should be admired by the readers when interacting with the literature.
This is not the case when reading the stories captured in the novel since the characters are not raised above the male controlled society. The piece presents the readers with much to think about in regards to the way women deal with their situations in a male-dominated society, and that instead of uniting to deal with their troubling situations, they fight each other, hence making them easy victims for men dominance and oppression.
The outright experience in the story is that women are there to impress men. However, it is important to underscore the relationship between women themselves as portrayed in the novel. One thing that disappoints many feminist readers is that women instead of supporting one another to challenge the chauvinist society they live in, they are acting like enemies to one another and degrade each other.
They seem to be alienated from one another, something that makes them weaker for discrimination by their male counterparts. One of the perfect examples of this veracity is by the Martinican woman, which is a touching representation of female degrading a fellow female character (Rhys 95). Serge finds a woman on his door drunk and crying and hence finds it impossible to decide whether she is young or old, beautiful or unattractive.
Disappointingly, through his narration, the audiences realize that her crying episode has been because of a fellow woman who used abusive words on her. The young woman verbally assaulted her by saying that she is dirty and not worth being in the building. The girl had early told her that she hates her and wishes her dead (Dell’Amico 10).
The most worrying thing about this ordeal is that the woman hates someone she does not know well. From Serge’s narration, the girl even though young has learned the art of hate and how to make it real. This demonstrates that as much as women would want to challenge the male domination in the society, they would not realize it since it requires them to be united and stand in for one another in whatever circumstance of life.
Another thing deducible from this case is the nature of the society with moral decay. Children learn both good and bad characters from the people around them. It means that the girl must have heard someone talk bad about the Martinican woman, and that is why she has the guts to talk ill to her. The society is indeed responsible for moral decay among the children.
The same aspect of hatred and antagonism is evidenced when Shasha looks through a window and sees another young girl applying some cosmetics (Rhys 99). Immediately, she hates her even if they might not meet in the future. Apparently, the readers see a woman filled with jealousy and hate with the feeling that her fellow woman looks better than she does. However, one thing that the audience would ask is what qualifies a woman to be pretty.
For instance, the Maritiniuan in the earlier case was considered unattractive since she is half-black. This implies that the hate would have been informed by her skin color more than her look and sex. In other words, it seems that white women are afraid that men would prefer women of color instead of them. However, and not attacking the men who despise them in favor of other women, they attack the women. This is an utter betrayal.
The way women look at each other shows detestation and abhorrence. Shasha does not want to keep her eyes on other women since they may judge her. Even without exchanging any word, she believes that other women do not like her. For example, she believes that the woman at the bar has not uttered any word, but Shasha can read hate from her eyes.
Similarly, Shasha notices another woman sitting on another side of the bar and believes she is unfriendly too (Rhys 23). She is scared that she would say something unpleasant to her. This relates to an early happenstance with another woman in another bar, where Shasha was verbally insulted.
From that experience, she feels threatened. As a result, the readers can infer that the piece depicts women as enemies of themselves if indeed they ought to unite and change their state of affairs and challenge the male oppression. Through Shasha, the audience sees undergoing hostility, threat and stifled anger.
Shasha’s experiences expose the readers to women’s public humiliation by fellow women. It is so worrying that women are very ready to insult others verbally, even if there is nothing serious to quarrel about. Another thing is that women hate one another when they realize that they are better than them in some aspects. One would argue that the society’s objectification has made women jealous against one another.
The same idea is impounded by Laura Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze stating that there has been a sexual imbalance between male and female (Mulvey 841). Women feel that men are better than they are and that they should look good to attract men. In other words, they do not look attractive to make themselves better for their own selves, but to impress men for their sexual advances. It means that they do not enjoy their worth or value their dignity, but leave all the judgments to their male counterparts.
The aspect of objectification is harmful, which Shasha sees when gazing into a hat store. An elderly woman in that shop tries every hat as her daughter watches. The daughter feels that no man would like her mother regardless of what she wears. The society seems so harsh on women, but even with such harsh experience, they make perfect enemies of themselves. One would expect the daughter to like and adore her old mother, but just like other women, she feels that looking good should just be for the sake of men to see.
They only see beauty through the lens of making men attracted and happy (Dell’Amico 17). Mulvey echoes the same thought and says that women are seen as sex objects, which means that women do not have control over their sexuality. Men control it entirely (Mulvey 844). On the same pedestal, Shasha feels that the way women treat each other is the reason for their predicament. She calls herself a kitten in relation to what she remembers about the relationship between the kitten and other male cats.
In that narration, the kitten has a disgusting experience of the male cats on her. It implies that even Shasha herself is not happy with the status of women, more so in regards to the way men mistreat them. However, women seem to be unready to challenge their situations, but rather allow things to continue the way they are.
Another instance that shows women being undermined is when Shasha works as a clerk in a retail store in her apartment. She is unable to go beyond her station, and from the look of things, she makes herself an easy subject of domination by men. She feels that her life is just simple and cannot match that of men. It shows that she feels defeated and does not even try to deal with any challenging situation to make herself better.
In fact, through Shasha, readers can vividly confirm that women besides being an impediment to themselves to oppose the status quo that considers men superior to women, they do very little to make themselves visible in a male-controlled society. They just believe that they should only be good to men sexually, but not to compete with them in other aspects of life (Rhys 55). Shasha ought to have worked on herself to make herself worth in the store instead of looking down upon herself as a weaker species with nothing much to offer.
Mulvey addresses the same and states that female figures pose a major problem to themselves by presenting themselves as easy victims of male domination (Mulvey 842). Therefore, the piece by Rhys has a lot for the readers to desire, more so how women handle themselves before men, which indeed make them easy to control.
In conclusion, the piece by Rhys is significant in examining the way women handle their problems. What is more disappointing is that instead of combining their efforts to challenge their situations in a male-dominated society, they instead fight each other as enemies, which make them easy victims of oppression and male dominance.
The greatest take away from this study is that women have not done enough to challenge the chauvinistic mindset that has made them subordinated to their male counterparts. Mulvey also confirms the same and agrees that women have given up the control of their lives to men, including their sexuality Mulvey.
This study is significant and makes the readers see vividly that women have failed themselves in the fight to challenge male supremacy in the society. It implies that they need to be more informed to unite to speak with one voice instead of competing with one another to impress men, something that has made them easy victims.