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Wide Sargasso Sea Essay

7574 words - 30 pages

Ideological Construction in Narrative Discourse:A Critical Discourse Analysis of Wide Sargasso SeaSuzana bt Abd LatifBackground of StudyJean Rhyss in her letter to Selma Vas Diaz writes,"When I read Jane Eyre as a child, I thought, why should she writeCreole women as lunatics and all that? What a shame to makeRochester's first wife, Bertha, the awful mad woman. I immediatelythought I'll write the story as it might have been . She seemed sucha poor ghost. I thought I'd try to write her a life".- Jean Rhys-As noted by many, Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) because she feltthat the first Mrs Rochester, depicted as the 'mad' woman in the attic in CharlotteBronte's Jane Eyre (1947), deserved to be given an identity and a history. Thus, hernovel Wide Sargasso Sea is regarded as prequel to Jane Eyre to explain how BerthaAntoinette Mason came to be in the attic of Thornfield house, and how she became, orcame to be seen as mad. Thus, in Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea, Bertha Masonis rerepresented as Antoinette Cosway, a real person with needs and motivations for thethings she does. In reconstructing the identity of Bertha to Antoinnette Cosway in the novel, Jean Rhys gives her a 'voice', which is denied of her in Jane Eyre, hence, subverting the 'silent' other. [2: As pointed out by Tyson (1999), the need of the colonizers to create the 'other', in order to define themselves as the 'center', systematically programmed colonized people to understand themselves as 'other', as marginalized, in relationship to this 'center'.]Within the perspective of post-colonial theory, therefore, post-colonialinterpretations of narrative discourse reveals a new way to examine world literature, and in doing so, seek to scrutinize some of the beliefs of European theory regarding the political and cultural monocentrism and to accommodate the differences within the various indigenous cultural traditions (Ashcroft et al. 1989). As pointed out by Tiffin (1989) cited in Tyson (1999:376), the "subversive anticolonialist manoeuvre" lies in the "rereading and rewriting of the European historical and fictional record" which may be heavily invested with the colonialist ideology contained in literature. Thus, postcolonial fictional writers interact with the traditional colonial discourse, but modify or subvert it; for instance by retelling a familiar story from the perspective of an oppressed minor character in the story as observed in Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.Hence, a post-colonial theory helps literary critics in understanding the role thatpost-colonial discourse plays within a wider social context, since they 'emerged in their present form out of the experience of colonization and asserted themselves by foregrounding the tension with the imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences from the assumptions of the imperial centre' (Ashcroft et al. 1989:2). However, as claimed by Selden (1989:112) that 'a literary text has no worldly existence until it is...

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