Comparing Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea Essay

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Comparing Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys obviously had Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in mind while writing Wide Sargasso Sea. Each novel contains events that echo other events or themes in the other. The destruction of Coulibri at the beginning of Wide Sargasso Sea reminds the reader of the fire at Thornfield towards the end of Jane Eyre. While each scene refers to events in its own book and clarifies events in its companion, one cannot conclude that Rhys simply reconstructed Thornfield's fall in Coulibri's. Though they exhibit some similarities, to directly compare these two scenes without considering their impact on the novels as whole works would be ridiculous. Each scene's main importance, and contribution to the
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Rhys puts Antoinette, already of weakened mind, into a situation where events occur not as a part of some supernatural plan, as they do for Jane, but instead occur in rapid, unintelligible succession, as if Antoinette is caught in some nightmarish dream from whose whimsical flow she cannot escape.

In addition to beginning with uniquely insane arsonists, both scenes include some sort of beast that jumps to its death from the roof of the burning house. In Wide Sargasso Sea, that plot device is a parrot, Coco, who saves the lives of Coulibri's residents by scaring away the superstitious freedmen who would surely have killed them all (Rhys 43). In Jane Eyre, both the beast and the saving of lives are figurative; the "beast" (Bronte 297) is Bertha, self-emancipated from her cell, and the life she saves is the fantasy existence of Mrs. Jane Eyre Rochester. With Bertha's death, Jane is finally free to marry Rochester. In neither case does the ill-fated creature have any sort of noble intention, but in both cases their deaths somehow liberate the protagonist of the story from previous oppression. However, as with the case of the arsonist's "madness" proposed earlier, the two fatalities have very different purposes within their stories. Bertha must die because she is fulfilling two sides of Jane's prophecy, of which Jane herself fulfills the other: any entrapped woman must choose between escape, madness, and death. Bertha goes mad when trapped in marriage to Rochester, then

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