Good Morning, Midnight

by Jean Rhys

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 318

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys explores the thoughts, feelings, struggles, and pain of a woman exploring Paris as well as her own soul. Sasha Jansen is a middle-aged English woman who comes to Paris in 1938 after a long absence. She had visited the streets and shops of Paris before, as a much younger married woman. She now sets about to confront her thoughts and feelings of the past that have haunted her since she left the beloved city.

The novel begins with Jansen at what appears to be the lowest point in her life. Struggling with depression, she looks for hope in some of the old locations that once brought her such happiness. She also looks for solace in alcohol, but it does little to comfort her. She desperately struggles to find something she could consider a victory in her life.

Jansen later encounters a cathartic experience when reflecting on a painting featuring a sad-looking banjo player. Although her spirits have been lifted by pleasant encounters with strangers, the past speaks to her in the form of the painting, and is she compelled to see the familiar sights of Paris as merely forms rather than experiences filled with life and joy.

The novel then takes the reader through a deeper reflection of Sasha Jansen’s past. She thinks of her husband and the joy they shared despite their relative poverty. In an effort to relive those days and cast aside considerations of her age and present circumstances, Jansen sets out to live as a young woman again despite her initial hesitation. Sadly, her initial hesitation seems to have been right. An apparently innocent romantic encounter with a young gigolo turns threatening, and she is forced to justify her own initial concerns. Jansen finds it impossible to return to the happiness of the past, but she strangely finds value in the struggle, and more importantly, she finds herself.

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