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What Aspects Of Charlotte Bronte's Essay

805 words - 3 pages

What aspects of Charlotte Bronte's

What aspects of Charlotte Bronte's depiction and use of the character
of Bertha Mason are most clearly illuminated by Jean Rhys' depiction
and use of her parallel character of Antoinette?

In Wide Sargasso Sea, written by Jean Rhys in the 1960’s, is a radical
critique of the context of English Imperialism and male dominated
society within which Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre. In order to
both expose and oppose the parallels inherent in Jane Eyre, Rhys
intertwines in her novel the two reading positions of feminist and
postcolonialist criticism.

Rhys demonstrates how both social and narrative conventions mandate
that certain categories of women must be devalued if other categories
of women are to assume importance. She does this by exposing to the
reader how Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, in order for her reader to
give Jane an assumed importance, devalued by the Creole character
Bertha; showing her to be made and giving us Jane’s description of her
as “[she] seemed…a woman… [she] reminded me… [of] the foul German
Spectre – the vampire” and Rochester’s comment that “the lunatic is
both cunning and malignant.”

Rhys, it seems was politically inspired to rewrite Jane Eyre and write
back to the empire. Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre which
was written British Empire was at its peak. Jane Eyre was a
representation of England to the English. Rhys decided to write back,
because of being of white West Indian descent herself, she was
offended by the representation of the mad Creole in the novel.
Although Rhys says that she is not a conscious feminist her novels are
always written from a female perspective and in Wide Sargasso Sea, the
male character is exposed as the one who is the outsider or other, as
opposed to the women (and the mad lunatic in particular).

In Bronte’s novel, Bertha is a silent character. She has no voice in
the novel although she is pivotal in the lives of its two main
characters. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Bertha is given a chance to speak
and be heard. Rhys was convinced in the writing of her book that
Bertha “must be at least plausible with a past, the reason why Mr
Rochester treats her so abominably and feels justified, the reason why
he thinks she is mad and why of course she goes mad”.

Antoinette’s husband in Rhys’ novel, although he is the narrator for
the largest section of the novel, remains to the reader unnamed. Rhys
has cleverly used this strategy so that the character (in the reader’s
eyes) becomes merely a representative of England itself and takes away

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