Post-colonial Fiction Essay Assignment 2012
Topic: How does Wide Sargasso Sea revise or alter the way one reads Jane Eyre? Your answer should include reference to contrasting narrative techniques employed by the two authors.
Jane Eyre, written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte, and Wide Sargasso Sea, written in 1966 by Jean Rhys, are two different novels, written in different eras and different backgrounds, thus are strongly related. In general terms, Wide Sargasso Sea can be considered to be a modernist revision of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; it acts as its sequence. “Bertha” in Jane Eyre is “Antoinette” in Wide Sargasso Sea. However, after reading both novels, we perceive them in a completely different way, as the mainly the character of
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Jean Rhys wished to alter the way someone saw Bertha in Bronte’s novel; he wanted to rename her, give her a name and a unique identity which lacked in Jane Eyre. Bronte creates a character which is rarely referenced in the novel and when it is in some parts of the novel, it is given a negative image. Jane Eyre is characterized from its title page as an “Autobiography”. Throughout the whole narrative, Jane is the only narrator and we perceive and witness situation, in the way that she wants us to. We see things from her single point of view, subjectively, unable to read other people’s lives or learn their way of thinking. The reader somehow feels enclosed or imprisoned in the narrator’s world. We get to know Bertha as the “madwoman in the attic”. A minor, two-dimensional, gothic caricature, a half-Creole and half-English woman, raised in Jamaica and who Mr. Rochester locked her for ages in the attic, claiming her madness. Unfortunately, the reader only has the chance to get to know Bertha, through Rochester’s and Jane’s voice as they are the ones who give information about her. Bertha is a voiceless woman and the reader cannot judge or decide if all the things he learns about her are valid without knowing her side of the story.
Characteristically, in Bronte’s novel we get Bertha’s image through Mr. Rochester words: “This is my wife. Your sister, Mason. Look at her.