"Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys.

Essay by CrabholeHigh School, 12th grade October 2005

download word file, 3 pages 3.0

Downloaded 82 times

'There is always the other side, always.'

Antoinette speaks to the very cause of Rhys' feminist and postcolonial rewriting. As a book that adopts the perspective of a marginalised and exoticised literary figure, "Wide Sargasso Sea" promotes an awareness of multiple & simultaneous viewpoints as it struggles against dominant traditions and espouses the cause of the under-represented through its exploration of racial, colonial and sexual oppression.

Rhys redresses Antoinette's silencing (in the canonical text), giving her an own narrative voice with which to tell her own experiences. (Antoinette's recount of the scene of Richard Manson's visit reveals her confusion and dislocation.)

It seeks to humanise the one-dimensional "madwoman" Bertha in Jane Eyre by creating a her prehistory as a woman left with the burdens of a divided cultural identity, tracing her development from a young solitary girl in Jamaica to a dispossessed lunatic in an English garret. By fleshing out Bront's wraith-like madwoman, Rhys enables us to sympathize with the mental and emotional decline of a woman, whose social, financial and emotional dependence on her husband pushes her to childlike servitude and feminine docility.

The family parrot symbolises the bound captivity of both mother and daughter--the figurative clipping of their feathers by English husbands who see them as threatening free spirits.

Rochester remains nameless throughout the novel. He is the nameless creator and, as a white man, his authority and privilege allow him to confer identity on others. He takes away Antoinette's voice by refusing to listen to her side of the story, and renames her as "Bertha" in an attempt to distance her from her lunatic mother, fragmenting her identity, and ultimately fashioning her into the ghostly, raving madwoman of the canonical text. Rochester's subsequent disappearance from the narrative suggests that he seems to be spying on...