Charlotte Bronte's Jane eyre and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea

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Charlotte Bronte's Jane eyre and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea

The Sargasso Sea is a relatively still sea, lying within the south-west zone of the North Atlantic Ocean, at the centre of a swirl of warm ocean currents. Metaphorically, for Jean Rhys, it represented an area of calm, within the wide division between England and the West Indies. Within such an area, a sense of stability, permanence and identity may be attained, despite the powerful, whirling currents which surround it. But outside of this ?sea?, one may be destabilised, drawn away by these outside forces, into the vast expanse of ?ocean? between the West Indies and Europe. Outside of these metaphorical and geographical oceanic areas, one may become the victim of these
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She was able to incorporate elements of detailed factual history of Dominica: including slavery, colonialism and external conflicts over proprietorship; as well as how these issues related to her fictional characters. Although not strictly autobiographical, Rhys uses cultural and topographical descriptions to both illustrate her own experiences in Dominica in the early, formative years of her life and to authenticate what she says. She sets her fiction in a time of upheaval and disruption in Dominica, following the emancipation of slaves, and in order to do so shifts the approximate dates used in Jane Eyre, but the significance of this shift is almost imperceptible, except in that it emphasises the plight of the Creole planter, rather than that of the emancipated slave.

The historical-fictional content of Wide Sargasso Sea is, by design, a prequel, or (p)review of Jane Eyre. Rhys called an early draft of the text Le Revenant: something that comes back, haunts, revisits. I think the ?haunting? and ?revisiting? between Rhys and Jane Eyre is reciprocal. Here, she herself revisits her youth, through Antoinette, to experience Dominica in a way which previews the characters and content of Jane Eyre in a temporal sense; but in doing so, creates indelible perspectives which haunt subsequent re-readings of the book. She also establishes a literary relationship between Jane and Antoinette, which Bronte does not describe. Rhys

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