Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Ruth Hoberman


Image and Identity: Effects of the Gaze in Colette's The Vagabond and Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight explains the development of identity, within private and public spaces, of the novels' female protagonists, Renee Nere and Sasha Jensen. Understanding the history of Paris, used as setting in both novels as well as serving as home for both authors, and its historical relationship to the gaze is important.

Using John Berger's and Charles Baudelaire's observations of female presence and the gaze, the thesis analyzes the ways in which Renee and Sasha struggle to form their identities, not only while braving the critical gaze of the public, but also while contemplating an inward assessment seen through the recurring motif of looking glasses.

The results of this analysis show that Renee and Sasha handle the effects of the gaze differently, consistent with their personalities and their occupations. Renee's ability to control the public gaze through her performance on the stage makes her stronger, whereas Sasha's inability to face the gaze of the public in cafes and on Paris streets adversely affects her mental health. While Sasha's inward gaze yields destructive memories, Renee's introspection uncovers a dormant talent, writing. The formation and development of their identity and self-image relates directly to the choices they make in acceptance or denial of both a public and an inward gaze.