Rather than recognising the set of circumstances that are clearly to blame for her depression, Joy believes it is all her own fault.
Self-blame emotionally paralyses Joy and prevents her moving forwards. When discussing her teaching job, she clarifies that work is not the problem:
I am the problem
This statement is isolated in a paragraph by itself. This emphases it, suggesting how deep-seated this belief is.
Joy is frequently apologetic about her decisions. After Myra's visit, Joy implies that she does not want to see Myra again. Despite the difficulty of the situation and the history of abuse, Joy takes responsibility on herself. As she watches Myra's bus disappear she says:
I’m sorry Myra. I’m sorry, I always do the wrong thing
The repetition here suggests how emphatically she blames herself. Joy has little reason to apologise for not wanting to see an abusive family member. Her assertion that she
always does the wrong thing also suggests her unclear judgement and skewed self-image.
Self-blame and self-doubt is closely linked to Joy’s compulsion to please people. When she learns that Michael’s wife has been invited to the memorial service, Joy is concerned about how others would view her reaction to this news:
it would have driven me crazy for anyone to think I was petty minded or spiteful
By the end of the novel, however, Joy seems able to move beyond blaming herself or apologising for her actions and manages to ‘forgive’ herself:
The voice is still there. I forgive you. I hear it quite distinctly. My own voice in an empty house...Nobody needs to know I said it.
Joy finally reaches a kind of self-redemption. The fact that
nobody needs to know suggests she is moving away from the burden of social expectations and other people's opinions that have so controlled her in the course of the novel. Finding her voice suggests she is on her way to recovering her lost identity.