Early in the novel we are introduced to Sasha's strategies for keeping her sense of disintegration and worthlessness at bay. She organizes her life as a series of rituals; designed, like the rituals of long-term prisoners, to hold on to some control over her own being (’a place to eat at midday, a place to eat at night, a place to have my drink … I have arranged my little life’); designed to evade hostility, fear, the destructive definitions of other people:
My life, which seems so simple and monotonous, is really a complicated affair of cafés where they like me and cafés where they don't, streets that are friendly, streets that aren't, rooms where I might be happy, rooms where I never shall be, looking-glasses I look nice in, looking-glasses I don't, dresses that will be lucky, dresses that won't, and so on. (GMM 40)
She plans ways to ensure that ‘Tomorrow I'll be pretty again, tomorrow I'll be happy again, tomorrow, tomorrow… ‘ (GMM 48). She constantly re-invents herself: a new hair-dye, a new hat, another visit to the lavabo mirror to cover up tears with powder, to construct a new face, to make herself up, in both senses of the phrase. All Rhys’ protagonists are creative artists: creating themselves is their only steady occupation. Even so, they can never rival the ‘charming, malicious’ dolls Sasha saw in the fashion house: ‘What a success they would have made of their lives if they had been women. Satin skin, silk hair, velvet eyes, sawdust heart – all complete’ (GMM 16).
Looking-glasses (both ‘looking-glasses I look nice in, lookingglasses I don't’) are a leitmotiv in Rhys’ work, perhaps for much the same reasons as they were in the paintings of the women surrealists. Her protagonists spend a good deal of time looking in mirrors, sometimes at photos, even at ghosts of themselves, descending into the unknown, searching for some understanding of their being which is other than the definitions thrust upon them. Tiffin suggests that, for the white Creole, the impossibility of identifying either with the English or with the black Caribbeans is what makes so imperative the search in the looking-glass for an alternative image.