Analysis of Jean Rhys' "Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose". An Initiation Story?

Term Paper, 2017

13 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Initiation and points of investigation
2.1 Characteristics of Initiation Stories
2.2 Boundaries of female Initiation

3Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Roseas a short story about Initiation
3.1 Looking for a Father figure: The Relationship of Phoebe and Captain Cardew
3.2 The representation of women
3.3 Digression: Colonial aspects inGoodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose
3.4 Identity crisis of Phoebe

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

In the following, I am reviewing Jean Rhys’ short story Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose regarding its suitability as an Initiation Story. Initially, I am going to introduce the concept of the initiation story itself and underline the points of investigation to which I will refer during the content analysis of Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose. Since the protagonist is a twelve- yearold girl, the following analysis will be focused on the aspects of female initiation ad the way Rhys’ portrayed the women in this short story. Also, the interaction and the missing interaction of Phoebe with the other characters is very important. Especially her relationship to Captain Cardew, which will be discussed in a separated chapter. As a digression, I am going to examine another possible interpretation of the happenings inGoodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose. Namely, that Captain Cardew’s taking advantage of Phoebe is a metaphor for the British Empire exploiting the native Americans and Africans. Finally, I am going to review the change of Phoebes perception of herself and the society she lives in. And give a conclusion in which ways this short story could be understood as a story about initiation.

2 Initiation and points of investigation

2.1 Characteristics of Initiation Stories

“An initiation story may be said to show its young protagonist experiencing a significant change of knowledge about the world or himself, or a change of character, or of both, and this change must point or lead him towards an adult world.” (Mordecai 1960: 222)

The initiation story can be categorised as a subgenre of the American short story. According to Marcus Mordecai’s Quote above, the initiation story deals with a young protagonist making the acquaintance of adulthood. In literary criticism, there is a variety of definitions which try to describe the characteristics of initiation stories. They vary or have specific differences. It’s because there is no consistent way of writing initiation stories. This genre doesn’t show a uniform situation, experience or problem all protagonists are facing, but diversified situations, experiences and problems combined with the protagonist’s individual reactions to their specific situation. The situation which is marking the protagonists change from adolescence to adulthood is the so-called Transition. According to Freese, the protagonist can experience up to four different insights from the absolved initiation. Namely the recognition that there is “evil in the world”, the gain of experience, knowledge and the own “social roles and functions” in society and even gain of confidence and “self-discovery” (Freese 1986: 23 ff.). Besides that, he assesses the role of the protagonist by activity and passivity by distinguishing whether the protagonist seeks for a new experience and makes decisions autonomously or if he endures a situation for which somebody else is responsible (cf. Bergmann 2003: 52). Freese’s theory is describing the possible effects of an initiation in which the adolescent is getting to know himself and/or his role in society, but gives no clue about initiation stories, in which the protagonist is turning against the society. It’s Ina Bergmann, who splits the effects of the initiation in “negative Initiation” and “positive Initiation”. She describes the initiation as negative, when the new experience is the reason the protagonist is averting contact with the society he is living in. And the successful integration into society as positive (cf. Bergmann 2003: 51). Mordecai gives information about the intenseness and sustainability of the experience for the maturity of the protagonist in his essay What is an Initiation Story? and splits the long-term effects of the initiation process into three categories. Initiation stories which lead the protagonist to a successful orientation in the adult world are labelled as “decisive” initiations. They are reviewed as the ideal outcome of the experience. If the experience itself is one, which can be able to lead a young character into adulthood, but does not show lasting effects of the transition and that the protagonist has found his place in adult society but struggles with the change, so the initiation is labelled as “uncompleted”. And if the experience is disturbing or even traumatizing for the protagonist, so that the integration into adulthood is in many cases a failure, the initiation viewed as unsettled and it is described as “tentative”. Even hybrid forms within these three categories are possible (cf. Mordecai 1960: 223-224.). One can say when checking the affiliation of Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose in the genre of initiation story, it’s important to differ within the genre itself, because not all initiation stories follow the same schemes but vary on the kind of experience that are made, whether there is an integration in society or not, the diverse effects the transition has on the protagonist and the way he is handling the new situation.

2.2 Boundaries of female Initiation

It’s remarkable that male and female transition into adulthood show huge differences. This is due to the different functions males and females are supposed to perform in society. While the men had the opportunity to hunt, work, sail or travel and increase their status, women were not offered the same opportunities. Their function in society was to be a daughter, housewife and mother. Within these life tasks the status of women did not change and they were always inferior to men. (cf. Bergmann 2003: 53). According to these limited opportunities and the forbiddance for women to explore the world and learn new things about themselves, Bergmann is denying that there is a “problematical phase of self-discovery” during the female transition to adulthood. And the literary theorist Freese limits the development of women to sexuality only. In his opinion, the female initiation is purely physiological. Therefore, the only way to transit the phase of childhood to adulthood as a female is by getting the first menstruation, the loss of virginity or by marriage and motherhood (cf. Freese 1986: 33). Due to these few possibilities which can mark the transition from a girlhood to adulthood the literary studies focused on the male initiation process, which offered a variety of transitions into adulthood and created models for categorizing initiation stories by studying stories of male initiation only. One of these models is Zwicks model about the rites which can occur during the initiation process and what kind of meaning or effect they are supposed to have. These model is called rites de passage. Some of the explained concepts are according to Freese also capable to explain definite aspects of female initiation stories. In regard to Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose I’m focusing on the role of Instruction, which means that a so-called Tutor is giving the protagonist knowledge about sexuality during the phase of Transition. Furthermore, the Setting of the transition can be outside of the social environment of the protagonist. In nature. The solitude is meant to underline the process of transition. And even the offering of presents by a member of the adult society can mark the admittance to the “new [adult] group” (cf. Zwick qtd. in Freese 1986: 16). The Transition, like already mentioned, can happen with the support of an adult. The adult can be male or female and either a “mentor”, who helps the protagonist to learn about the rules of the society and about him- or herself or the adult can be a “temper” who is hampering the transition of the protagonist. The line between mentor and temper is not clear and even a mentor who is introducing his young female protégé into sexuality can be labelled a temper according to Ina Bergmann. (cf. Bergmann 2003: 51). With a view to the presented characteristics of initiation stories, the following chapter is examining the qualities of Jean Rhys’ short story Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose and determining its suitability of being an initiation story.

3 Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose as a short story about Initiation

3.1 Looking for a Father figure: The Relationship of Phoebe and Captain Cardew

Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose starts in the middle of the second walk Phoebe and Captain Cardew are undertaking. Completely naïve, the reader gets to know that Cardew is amusing Phoebe with a song and that she is seeing him as a “hero”, because he took part in a war and survived even though he got wounded (Rhys 1976: 25). It is conspicuous that Phoebe has a positive image of Cardew. She is not only happy, but feels honoured, that he is spending his time with her. Cardew and Phoebe are the two main characters in the short story and their walks and conversations mark the most important point in the whole story. Especially the disparity of them is noticeable. Cardew is much older than Phoebe and he has experienced a lot during his life. For example, he participated in a war and travelled the oceans as a captain. Contrary to that, Phoebe is a 12-year-old girl, which let’s assume that Cardew is at least three times as old as her, who has never left the island she lives on and is unaware of the brutality and misery a war can cause. The closest experience she ever got with wars and diverse countries is by reading about it in history books. Also in the way they are seeing each other, there is a contrast: While Phoebe is enjoying his knowledge and the stories the tells her, Cardew is seeing her as a “temptation” (Rhys 1976: 28). This fact let’s assume that he has no fatherly feelings for Phoebe, but physical attraction and lust. Despite Cardew is married to Edith, he is showing interest in the underaged Phoebe. One can notice this by the fact, that he is treating her like she is already a woman and by the try to ensnare her during the second meeting by bringing her chocolate and taking her out to a beautiful and peaceful place, the botanical garden. While Phoebe is assessing their walk as a friendly gesture of Cardew, he is assessing the time he spends with Phoebe as a date. During their break in the botanical garden, the captain touched the naked breast of Phoebe suddenly. By his calmness during the touch one can say, that this action wasn’t spontaneous, but already planned. The intimate touch itself disturbed Phoebe and left her petrified. So that she did not dared to tell him to stop touching her. And since she didn’t show her dislike of his act not told anybody about what happened in the botanical garden, Cardew gained in Confidence and continued, not physically but mentally to introduce Phoebe to sexuality. When reviewing Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose as an initiation story, the touch of the breast can be described as the moment the process of transition began and it continued with the conversations about sex. Cardew is taking over the role of the mentor. But according to fact that the following conversations about not only romantic but also raw and violent sex are disturbing Phoebe more than teaching her about her own sexuality, Cardew is to label as a temper figure. There is no doubt, that Carew is a molester and Phoebe is a victim, who is ashamed to mention the abuse. Neither in front of Cardew nor in front of her mother. In some points, the story of Phoebe and Cardew reminds one on the experience Rhys herself had with the elderly man, Mr. Howard when she was a young girl (cf. Raiskin 1996: 154).


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Analysis of Jean Rhys' "Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose". An Initiation Story?
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Diese Hausarbeit thematisiert das Genre der Initiation Story und bettet die Kurzgeschichte "Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose" in dieses Genre ein
Jean Rhys, Goodbye marcus, Goodbye Rose, Initiation, Initiation Stroy
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Arijalda Prentic (Author), 2017, Analysis of Jean Rhys' "Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose". An Initiation Story?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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