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Alienation And Fragmentation In Modernist Literature

1968 words - 8 pages

With Sasha Jansen, Jean Rhys created in Good Morning, Midnight a female character who does not have a place in the world. Sasha walks the streets of Paris, commenting, reflecting, remembering. Her few coping-mechanisms show how deeply she is already alienated from the world, even from herself. As a reader you get this fed bit by bit, in fragments, jumping between the actual narration, memories and inner monologues.

As a woman in Paris in the late 1930s Sasha Jansen is far ahead of her time. In her book about Jean Rhys, Elaine Savory says about Sasha: "She lives in the 1930s, when women were supposed to gain social standing through marriage to a man (preferably of means), or, if they remained single, to hold onto respectability even in hard times." (p68) Sasha is on her own, her former husband left her at some point in the past, she lives in rented rooms, has very little money and is definitely having a hard time as she is very aware of and does not feel well with her own ageing. Instead of 'holding on to respectability' she drinks. Sometimes she cries in public. She takes men back to her hotel room and has random sex.

Her drinking habits seem to be old, it seems that she has been drinking for a long time, regularly. Drinking is one of her main coping mechanisms. Every time she finds herself in an emotionally challenging situation, she longs for a strong drink to soothe herself, to feel less of the pain that is her life. After she started crying in the house of an artist-friend she says: 'I have an irresistible longing for a long, strong drink to make me forget that once again I have given damnable human beings the right to pity me and laugh at me.' (p. 78)

While she lived in London, she tried to drink herself to death and didn't succeed: 'It was then that I had the bright idea of drinking myself to death…. I did try it, too. I've had enough of these streets that sweat a cold, yellow slime, of hostile people, of crying myself to sleep every night. I've had enough of thinking, enough of remembering. Now whisky, rum, gin, sherry, vermouth, wine with the bottles labelled 'Dum vivimus, vivamus…'Drink, drink, drink… As soon as I sober up I start again. I have to force it down sometimes.' And: 'Nothing. I must be solid as an oak.' (p37) Her life at this point was sad and lonely, but her main reason for the drinking effort is that she can afford it. She came into a legacy that allowed her to stay at home and drink.

The state she is seeking with her drinking in Paris is indifference, a state where she does not have to feel any longer how sad she is, where she does not care, where even the basic and simple things of surviving do not bother her any more: 'People talk about the happy life, but that's the happy life when you don't care any longer if you live or die. You only get there after a long time and many misfortunes. And do you think you are left there? Never.' (p. 75-76) She is upset by the fact that she is not left alone in this state of...

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