The reshaping of the environment through the deconstruction of language that Rhys exhibits creates the self awareness of Sasha’s character. The personification of the room, ”Quite like old times,’ the room says’ (Rhys 9) presents this claustrophobic dialogue within Sasha herself that heightens her role as a recluse in a shutout privatised space; rejection and alienation from society. The concrete and detailed photographic imprints of the environment, ‘narrow, cobble stoned, going sharply uphill and ending in a flight of steps’ (Rhys 9) suggests the scrutiny she herself faces, an ‘impasse’ (Rhys 9) where she is in no position to escape from reality, a freeze frame-like moment. To break away from the harsh reality of life, Sasha delves into a state of stream of consciousness, the surreal realm that fortifies as her comfort zone. ‘I went down into the lavabo. A familiar lavabo’ (Rhys 10) creates this feministic quality for it is often where the female sex dominates. Thus, Rhys’ choice of diction creates this dream-like quality world that subconsciously, salvages Sasha. The spontaneity and overflowing thoughts that she portrays; ‘I mean the real thing. You jump in with no willing and eager friends around, and when you sink you sink to the accompaniment of loud laughter’ (Rhys 10) creates the presence of the absence, an epiphany. By deriving something out of nothing, the vicious cycle between the past and present sets in, where there is no proper transition between the present state of mind and the haunting memories. Anne B. Simpson sees language that ‘tests the readers’ ability to locate, in the interstices of a discourse, the truths that must be heard’ (Simpson 90). Language itself hence creates this ambiguity in Sasha’s self-awareness of her identity which parallels to Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, the aimless hope of waiting through nonsensical communication and gestures, a ‘connection made of a different order’ (Simpson 104), the embedded truth and issues that struggle to resurface in a world of existentialism.
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Existentialism; to morph out of the oppressed world of the past and reinstate oneself in the present, Rhys manipulates with the irregularity of sentences as a glimpse of hope for Sasha, to breakthrough into unknown boundaries, creating immense possibilities in life, deviating from the state of depression. Through these rough and ambiguous transitions of sentences through the usage of ellipsis, this being reiterated throughout the novel, there is this reverberation of silences, which ‘wielding of power, speech itself falls short when it is offered’ (Simpson 90). Ricocheted throughout the novel, Rhys presents the embedded silence through sporadic moments of language, of start stops, inconsistent fluidity of thoughts and ideas; ‘Don’t smile then but look eager, alert… he’s doing this on purpose… Of course he isn’t doing this on purpose’ (Rhys 22), whereby silence within words allows the mind to pre-empt future happenings and how to deal with it. The spontaneity of language and words evoked from Sasha’s melancholia; ‘was it in 1923 or 1924; was it in 1926 or 1927?’ (Rhys 11) and also, driven by the madness of her past ‘it was something I remembered’ (Rhys 11), Hamlet-like, “to be or not to be, that is the question’ (Act III Scene 1, ln 56); in tartar limbo, draws out the overflowing emotions she evokes, of the remembrance and pondering of her past identity that is etched deeply in her heart and soul.
Gerry Smyth finds silence ‘the most effective as well as the most widely disseminated form of resistance to institutionalised power’ (Smyth 54), suggesting that only through silence in language does one consistently heightens the individual assurance of self, ‘we sit side by side, not touching each other’ (Rhys 138) reinstates Sasha’s social status, whereby perpetual silence cultivated this surreal and superior quality of the female sex through restricted body language, an oppressive contender against their counterpart. However, arguably, silence itself has its duality, of pain and threat, suffering in silence, as seen in the sexual violence and abuse of the weaker sex, ‘my idea is not so much to struggle as to make it a silent struggle’ (Rhys 151) projects this physical pain that is palpable to the senses; an abused silence. Thus, silence serves as a palette that breaks the fluidity of thoughts as it displaces characters from the realm of reality and surreal through distinct analysis of the environment. As Sasha’s survival tool, silence provides her an invisible language of superiority and authority that transports her into the circulatory phase of the past and present, intervening with the uncertainties of her repressed life that she ambiguously seeks to explore, ‘Quiet, Quiet… and it makes a noise between a belch and a giggle’ (Rhys 29). Silence, embedded within the core structure of language, as a two-pronged approach, reveals the ‘deep psychic drive lead[ing] us not only towards pleasure, but also towards pain and destruction’ (Czarnecki 68).
The conflict between the sexes in Good Morning, Midnight is represented through language, as a form of silent authority and empowerment. Referring to the previous point on embedded silence, language creates the defining moment for women; ‘Sasha has powerful symbolic language at her disposal; although usually unwilling to speak aloud, she dread upon it for moments of psycholinguistic strength’ (Czarnecki 73). The humiliation of the conscious Self taps on the unconscious to unearth and release its prowess, ‘Today, this day, this hour, this minute, I am utterly defeated. I have had enough’ (Rhys 25). Sasha’s emotional and physical torture had thus reached its limits and this line suggests the feministic power, ‘I am no longer afraid of Mr Blank’ (Rhys 25) she embodies within herself, fighting for her rights to strike as an individualistic icon for her own identity. The gradual metamorphosis of her identity thus, is reflected through language that allows her to gain superiority and confidence in conquering her supposed freedom from oppression.
Remoulding language as an in-depth analysis of Sasha’s conflicting character, Rhys reconstructs the linguistic forms in Good Morning, Midnight. Sasha’s sublime experience with language creates this sense of fear and anxiety; the hazed vision of self-rootedness. Through her stream of consciousness, ‘you must make your mind vacant, neutral, then your face also becomes vacant, neutral’ (Rhys 17). Rhys creates this blank structure, an insignificant image of Sasha as an alienated identity in the novel. The foreign languages that she “assumingly” upkeeps were just a masking of her oppressed state, ‘Nothing at all to do with fluent French or German… I’m here because I’m here because I’m here’ (Rhys 18). Sasha, like an empty vessel, lacks this sense of self-rootedness through her linguistically impaired identity. The foreign language suggests also, an alienated identity that doesn’t belong to her, ‘Nationality – that’s what has puzzled him’ (Rhys 13). There is a lack of rooted identity within Sasha, resulting in her pathetic fallacy, of being condemned, ‘this complete imbecility’ (Rhys 24) and discriminated by society as seen in Mr Blank’s ignorance of her, ‘Be as quick as you can, Mrs- er – please’ (Rhys 22).
Language further satires Sasha’s state of mind through the linguistic panic attack she suffers, ‘All the little German I know flies out of my head. Jesus help me! Ja, ja … doh reh mi fah soh la ti doh’ (Rhys 21). Seemingly summoning the power of language to salvage herself to determine her identity in an ‘impasse’ (Rhys 9) situation, language here projects a mockery of Sasha for her ‘gibberish fragments’ (Czarnecki 71) of language that makes no connectivity, all ‘runs together in a meaningless strand’ (Czarnecki 71). This hence further emphasise her as a ‘biggest fool I[he]’ve ever met in my[Mr Blank] life’ (Rhys 24), where she herself unconsciously withdraws into a world of emptiness. Anne B. Simpson views this form of fictional psyche as the ‘pulsations of an unconscious that “speaks” of forces that have been repressed and yet fervently seek expression’ (Simpson 91). The symbiotic relationship between language and Sasha herself generates a “recycled” identity that she holds on as a shield of protection for when ‘life is curious when it is reduced to its essentials’ (Rhys 73), the paranoia of randomness and uncertainty may engulf the human’s mind, resulting in a loss in transition.
The thirst for language that Rhys conjures hence aims to save Sasha from her dominant recluse state. This metamorphosis is thus further seen in the body language and gestures that subconsciously runs through her mind. The determinism, ‘to have my hair dyed’ (Rhys 42) suggests the idea of permanence in colour, a form of solidity and confirmation of identity that she desires through her physical transformation. Ironically, her indecisive actions, ‘I try to decide what colour I shall have my hair dyed’ (Rhys 44) reflects the setback into the past for the myriads of colours ‘red, black, blonde’ (Rhys 44) shows her lack of decisions and confusion, ‘I don’t belong anywhere’ (Rhys 38). Therefore, what concludes of her escapism through language into a new world is an ‘eternal pattern of return’ (Simpson 97). Rhys hence portrays language as a linguistic barrier between Sasha and the world; the ‘colonised and the coloniser’ (Simpson 1). In the hierarchy world, language gains precedent over humanity. Sasha, being linguistically handicapped, portrays this vulnerable and oppressed state of mind. The language of madness thus results her as a rejected Order, ‘Nobody has ever pitied me’ (Rhys 146), pushing her off tangent into the world of surrealism, ‘I’d forgotten what it was like, the touch of the human hand’ (Rhys 84), as an undetermined object of society.
Jean Rhys directs language as a psychoanalytical playground in Good Morning, Midnight, creating this schizophrenic quality in Sasha as she channels between the passages of reality and surrealism, which to Lacan, ‘the mirror image would seem to be the threshold of the visible world’ (Lacan 549). The dream-like quality that Sasha enters is constructed as a psychoanalysis of the self; ‘the mirror stage as the formative of the function of the I’ (Lacan 548), restricting her movements and thoughts to the past experiences in her life. The ‘tube station’ (Rhys 12) metaphorically represents the channel where memory passes through in a circulatory motion, ‘no exit sign’ (Rhys 12). Trapped within the scope of repetitions ‘This Way to the Exhibition’ (Rhys 12), Rhys creates this psychological language wordplay that fiddles with the mind, inducing Sasha’s paranoia alienation due to the ‘deflection of the specular I into the social I’ (Lacan 551) by sandwiching her past experience and present clear state of mind into a rubric of undetermined chaos which tenders a blurred line between truth and the untold. By converging everything linearly, Sasha falls into the trap of alienation and discomfort as seen in another particular incident that strikes off, as a psychoanalytical self-identity.
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Falling back into the stream of consciousness, the back track of incidents, ‘Well, all the male cats… she got a sore on her neck, and the sore on her neck got worse’ (Rhys 47). The palpable senses evokes through this image thus reflects on herself, a mirroring quality of her present state, of degeneration and the impulsive rejection from society, ‘Now everybody in this room is staring at me; all the eyes in the room are fixed on me’ (Rhys 43). The animalistic imagery that Rhys portrays creates this displacement of language, where Sasha herself alleviates from her own position and puts herself in the shoe of the Other, which to Lacan, is the breaking down of language to its simplest form that ‘manifests itself in dreams when the movements of the analysis encounters a certain level of aggressive disintegration in the individual’ (Lacan 551). This thus creates an ambiguous character within Sasha herself; is she living in her present state, or is she reminiscing about the past for survival in this harsh and unacceptable crowd? Language, hence, creates this creative and revolutionary platform for Sasha to explore the unknown boundaries in the world of infinity.
Alcoholism plays an important role in discovering the role of language in Good Morning, Midnight. The massive consumption of alcohol instils the idea of escapism, running away from everyday events, indulging oneself in a world of sensibility. ‘Will I have another Pernod’ (Rhys 73) shows Sasha’s engagement with alcohol, ‘fire’ (Rhys 73) as a symbol of freedom; ‘wings’ (Rhys 73) from oppression, where she ‘as usual trying to drink my[her]self to death’ (Rhys 30). The rhetorical questioning of her decision draws out the authority of language and its influence on her, of decision making. Consumption thus acts as a tool of repressing the past, ‘something I remembered’ (Rhys 11) and creating this imaginary existing quality of ‘hallucinating, surreal and disorienting effects’ (Simpson 88) of an individual, in this case, Sasha, of proving her conscious state of mind; ‘but when the absinthe went really into the head… I even heard my voice saying’ (Rhys 102), suggesting feministic qualities of recreating an identity for herself as a woman. The coarse language that she uses, ‘Shut up, I hate you’ (Rhys 103) and ‘I am a respectable woman… damned you’ (Rhys 88) towards the men she meet in her life unearths feministic qualities in the novel; where Sasha represses her oppressed state of mind, ‘transforms freedom into the terror of a loss of control or an unforeseen incursion from the outside’ (Bowlby 41), that she has always been in her state of drunkenness.
However, Czarnecki argues that the induced drunkenness through alcohol makes Sasha ‘slide into her passitivity’ (Czarnecki 68) as a ‘repeating pattern like a form of anaesthetic, immobilise and tranquil her’ (Czarnecki 68-69). Deemed like the fallen angel, Lucifer, Czarnecki thus perceives Sasha as weak bond, ‘while we live, let us live’ (Rhys 37) shows her jaded attitude towards life in her simplistic quality of her language, living on a day by day basis, ‘Besides, it isn’t my face, this tortured and tormented mask’ (Rhys 37), she seemingly falls back into her horrors of the past, where there is irresolute conclusion to the human system. The transformation into the Other thus pitches the reader into the world of Sasha’s purgatory, schizophrenic-like, discovering her identity amidst the repetitive languages of uncertainty and undetermined chaos.
Jean Rhys’s manipulation of language in Good Morning, Midnight portrays the novel as a labyrinth, a maze-like structure that traps us within this vortex of ‘impasse’ (Rhys 9). By breaking down language into its simplest form, it intrigues one to ponder about human identity in detail; the intricacy of delight in deciphering the novel of its ambiguity. Rhys’s character, Sasha, adopts this schizophrenic quality where the only answer to her lost soul, is through the marginal barrier that she oscillates between reality and surrealism. Henceforth, in a world of irresolute conclusion, deconstructing language allows one to slow down its pace, to track and find, the true Self within a world of conflict and undetermined chaos.
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