Rhys and Adorno: How Do They Compare?

How does the style of Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys compare to Adorno’s “spiders’ web” writing style, “loose and irresponsible formulation” and the use of “vague expression” he praises in Minima Moralia?

In Good Morning, Midnight the protagonist, Sasha is living a life of constant uncertainty, confusion, grief, pain and trauma. Rhys’s writing style with her liberal use of ellipsis, chapter breaks, dialogue and monologue in multiple languages suggests she is writing in a “loose and irresponsible” way with “vague expression[s]” that leaves the readers open to analyze the text and fill in the blanks that’s left by the ellipsis.

The ellipsis that opens a sentence even after a chapter break tells readers that there is more to Sasha’s life and experience than what is written in the novel.  “…I got to a hotel near the Place de la Madeleline” (Rhys 143) is a sentence that starts the section after a chapter break and that preceded a sentence that ended, not with a period, but with another set of ellipses. This and many other passages in the text “permits the hearer to imagine whatever suits him and what he already thinks in this case” (Adorno 101). It allows the reader to think, analyze and imagine what he is reading instead of having each part of the protagonist’s experience spoon fed to them. The time between the ellipsis is at times unknown. What takes place in the character’s life is also at times unknown.

Good Morning, Midnight is like a “spiders’ web” but not quite the “tight, concentric, transparent, well-spun and firm” (Adorno 87) web the Adorno speaks of.  It’s a spiders’ web but it has many holes. Some many argue that the holes are the seemingly frantic use of ellipsis. It may even be considered a poor use of grammar and an inability to start or complete a sentence on Rhys’s part, not literary genius. On the other hand, it could be that Rhys wants readers to read between the lines, or create their own lines in the case of the ellipsis and chapter breaks. The untranslated languages, such as the French and German that’s used in the English text can confuse if not amuse readers. The use of language can be considered the “[s]shoddiness that drifts with the flow of familiar speech…” (Adorno 101). The “shoddiness” is the natural speech patterns and the multi lingual mind one can acquire when residing in a global city.

Sasha’s life can be defined as or compared to a spider furiously spinning the web of her life and constant mending the holes the weather, flying objects and giddy children cause. An example of Sasha furiously spinning is when she was meeting Mr. Blank for the first time. Knowing that her skills are limited, she feels it is a good idea to practice her German in her mind. “I at once make up in my mind that he wants to find out if I can speak German. All the little German I know flies out of my head. Jesus, help me!” She panics and start producing silk. “Ja, ja, nein, nein was kostet es, Wein ist eine…” (Rhys 24). The broken German monologue ends with a panicked Solfège. She is working on shoring up her web before someone puts a hole in it. Sasha wants to blend in her environment and stay safe.

One may ask if Good Morning, Midnight would have the same effect if it was “edited” in the way a high school English teacher would edit and grade a written text with the use of ellipsis that doesn’t fit the standard, chapter breaks that may seem obsessive and the use of language that may frustrate the reader. Rhys’s novel reflects life and the “looser” style Adorno speaks of and leaves the readers open to multiple levels of interpretation.