Wide Sargasso Sea

The Voice of The Other in Wide Sargasso Sea

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

“How will you like being made exactly like other people?” is a question that echoes through Antoinette’s mind early within Jean Rhys’s responsive and revisionist text, Wide Sargasso Sea (Rhys 22). Constructing her protagonist from Charlotte Brontë’s insane Bertha Mason, Rhys aims to write the history, the preface, of one of the most discussed feminist figures in the literary canon. Giving voice to the voiceless, Rhys reconsiders the circumstance that culminated in Bertha’s (here Antoinette’s) descent into madness. However, one character in particular—Antoinette’s former slave and surrogate guardian, Christophine—maintains a refusal to subscribe to this question of erased identity that shapes the novel. A character “embedded in multiple hierarchies” (Hai 494), Christophine defies the subordination and assimilation of other, more powerful characters within the text whose actions aim to reduce her to the demeaning role of “other.” While her race, color, and gender all leave her open to discrimination and marginalization typical for members of these social groups, she subtly undermines these stereotypes not through overt, activist proclamations but through her silence and exit from a novel dominated by two white narrators.

Throughout the novel, Rhys exemplifies Christophine’s narrative as one of dual subjugation and subversion in order to depict her defiance of patriarchal colonial powers and illustrate the resistive power of subtle, marginal actions. The opening of the novel presents a tone of quintessential colonial hegemony, immediately characterizing Christophine as an “other” within the text. However, what is perhaps most notable—and uncharacteristic of colonial discourse—is that Christophine opens the novel as the first women named to the reader. Rhys opens her text, “They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did… The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother, ‘because she pretty like pretty self’ Christophine said” (Rhys 9). By allowing Christophine to open the novel, great power is instilled in both her voice and her narrative; however, this power of with being the first speaker is muddled by Christophine’s inability to speak for herself. While her words open the story, Antoinette’s ultimately narrates it. This action of being spoken for exemplifies the authority that colonial and slave-owning traditions hold over Christophine, as she is unable to speak for herself despite possessing a quotable, insightful opinion. The language of Christophine’s opinion particularly separates her as an ignorant other. By proclaiming Annette to be “pretty like pretty self,” in her Caribbean colloquial dialect, Christophine’s voice is inherently seen as less educated and less insightful. The juxtaposition of this native tongue to Rhys’s eloquent opening prose of “closing ranks,” crafted in a lengthy, complex syntax, further marginalizes Christophine and her voice as subsidiary. Repeatedly analyzed as the othered native trope, Christophine’s role is often reduced through postcolonial critic Gayatri Spivak’s observation that “she is simply driven out of the story, with neither narrative nor characterological explanation or justice” (Spivak 246). However, it is this strange and muddled opening that both gives Christophine power and strips it from her, presenting the character as one of complex motives, stories, and means.

Additionally, Rhys’s narrative structure implicates the ownership—both legal and informal—that Antoinette holds over Christophine. Her role as slave, and later servant, in the novel immediately notes her as a dominated woman, but coupled with the statement of “closing ranks” illuminates a characterization as a member of an outed, lesser group—a characterization assigned to her from the opening of the text. Christophine, despite her initial assignment to this place of marginalization, repeatedly threatens the powers, and people, that aim to subjugate her. Throughout the novel, Christophine maintains an undoubtedly complex relationship with both Antoinette and Rochester—challenging one of the primary forms of her marginalization, servitude. To take on black feminist bell hooks’ exploration of what it means to be oppressed, Christophine undermines those who aim to dominate her all while within her place of servitude. While hooks acknowledges that the concept of marginalization typically notes a rather negative, oppressive connotation, she reverses this construct, uniquely defining the margin as the primary “space for counter hegemonic discourse… not just… in words but in habits of being and the way one lives” (hooks 206). Utilizing this perspective, it becomes clear that Christophine’s actions—while still at times in a place of subservience—alter the forms of oppression placed upon her. For instance, in a moment where Christophine is cleaning and serving the couple coffee, Rochester harshly critiques, “I can’t say I like her language… And she looks so lazy, she dawdles about” (Rhys 50-51). Despite taking place in a moment where Christophine is working and repeatedly referring to the two as “master” (Rhys 50), Rochester elects to distinguish her as, above all, “lazy.” This depiction overtly refers, not to her work ethic, but her blackness, equating her performance to her race. The notion that “she dawdles about” inherently diminishes her to an entity responsible only for serving and subject to the judgments of her “masters.” This moment, conversely, gives way to the power Christophine yields over language, again complicating her subservience.

While clearly not the rhetoric preferred by Rochester, Christophine’s rhetoric creates a dialogue that disrupts the expectations of submission and silence. It is through her language—even within a role of servitude—that Christophine asserts her power, aligning her margin to hooks’ “site of radical possibility, [and] space of resistance.” (hooks 206). Christophine further dismantles her role of subservience when she refuses Antoinette’s money for an obeah love potion. Repeatedly begging Christophine to mend her marriage and her love with Rochester, Antoinette, by partaking in the obeah trade, legitimizes both Christophine’s practice and her knowledge over the culture. Aiming to dominate the trade and by extension Christophine, she attempts to throw her “purse from [her] pocketbook” (Rhys 70), claiming capital control over her former slave. However, Christophine subverts this capitalist hegemony by simply refusing the money, retaliating, “You don’t have to give me money. I do this foolishness because you beg me—not for money” (Rhys 70). By directly dismissing Antoinette’s money, Christophine removes herself from a capitalist interaction aimed at dominating her. She further extends her reclamation of power over the situation, denoting Antoinette’s desires for the obeah potion as “foolishness.” Despite it being Christophine’s own cultural practice, she aligns with the dominating rhetoric that deems obeah foolish, not to belittle herself, but to embarrass Antoinette. In this moment, Christophine aims to redefine the power dynamics present between the two women, simply by removing herself from the traditional interaction of trading money. By removing herself from this capitalist practice, Christophine willingly exits from the accepted mainstream and, arguably, into the margin. The occupation of this space, while traditionally undesirable, breaks the oppressive expectations Christophine must maintain in the periphery. It is here that it becomes clear that Christophine’s marginalization maintains hooks’ ideal resistance “where one can say no to the colonizer, no to the downpressor” (hooks 207), allowing her to deny and rebel against Antoinette’s standards, dismantling the capitalist ideals often associated with colonial hegemony.

Perhaps the most powerful moment Christophine commands within the novel is when she confronts Rochester’s treatment of Antoinette, in a sense, verbally castrating him. While Christophine’s rebellion against Antoinette’s expectations is powerful for its corrosion of the master/servant and black/white dichotomies, her assertion of Rochester is arguably extensively more powerful as it additionally addresses the patriarchal authority he holds over her as a man. Abhorred by his treatment of Antoinette, she accuses “all you want is to break her up… you made her worse” (Rhys 92-93), culminating in the vivid insult, “But you wicked like Satan self!” (Rhys 96). This proclamation that Rochester lives to see Antoinette deteriorate verbally assaults the treatment of his wife. The harsh accusation that he made his wife “worse” is particularly baring and rather out of place from a servant, making Christophine’s words that much sharper. To depict Rochester in the simile “wicked like Satan” not only places Christophine’s immense distaste upon him but also parallels him to an evil so grotesque the only image she can conjure is that of the devil. This degradation stands not only to diminish Rochester, but also to assign power to Christophine and her language that he has already expressed contempt for. Her assertive discourse, directly meant to question his patriarchal authority as Antoinette’s husband, challenges his decisions and his command over a servant he should presumably carry great colonial dominance over. Thus, Christophine’s verbal attack subverts Rochester’s position of authority, allowing her to combat the colonial standards that aim for her submission.

Despite her rather dramatic proclamations of power against both Antoinette and Rochester, Christophine disappears from the novel in a rather abrupt exit. The same way Christophine subverts the subordination from the coupled narrators, she refuses to exit the physical periphery to enter the center: England. In the culmination of her fight with Rochester, Christophine proclaims, “‘Read and write I don’t know. Other things I know,’” to which her arch in the novel concludes, “She walked away without looking back” (Rhys 97). Christophine’s adamant profession of her lack of literacy—something often attributed to intelligence and knowledge—does not capture her ignorance, but rather reveals a knowledge of her own limits. By confessing to her deficit, Christophine reclaims her lack of understanding and instead propels her assertion “other things I know.” This brief yet poignant moment establishes Christophine’s certainty in her role throughout the novel, while the short syntax resonates “know” at the closing of the sentence, solidifying Christophine’s rebellious confidence. Furthermore, it asserts a sense of wisdom and understanding to her action of “walk[ing] away.” It is this definitive past tense: “she walked away” that ultimately becomes Christophine’s most powerful act of defiance. Without so much as “looking back,” she is able to refuse a physical presence once the white narrators leave for England, instead adhering to her margin as “a site one stays in, clings to even… to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds” (hooks 207). Therefore, she is not driven out but rather consciously elects to leave once the novel’s setting migrates to the center in her ultimate act of defiance.

Throughout Wide Sargasso Sea, the character of Christophine subverts the hegemonic powers that aim to subjugate her in order to demonstrate the capacity of passive resistance. While her outright verbal defiance of Antoinette and Rochester directly undermines capitalist and patriarchal standards, her subtle behavioral resistances illustrate the power she culminates through her own marginalization. Despite the subservient act of cleaning, she resists through language Rochester deems abhorrent, and despite the silencing moment of her exit, she voices her dissent by refusing presence once the narration reaches England. This defiance ultimately portrays the complexities that define Christophine’s suppression, highlighting her disruption of colonial powers and her use of the margin as a site of rebellious discourse.

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Wide Sargasso Sea and the Symbolism of Mirrors and Madness

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

Poscolonial narratives and rewritings attempt to deal with minority responses by recovering their untold stories as a result of European colonization (Reavis). This literature addresses the problems and consequences of the decolonization of a country and individual responses to issues of imperialism and racialism. Jean Rhys takes on the task of giving a voice to historically silenced characters in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a precursor story to Bronte’s Jane Eyre from the perspective of Mr. Rochester’s mad and seemingly bestial wife Bertha Mason, whose given name is revealed to be Antoinette Cosway. Throughout the novel Rhys employs various symbols to convey the concept of “the other” along with themes of social and cultural identity, entrapment, and ecocriticism to reflect the psyches and experiences of the characters. Rhys uses the concept of mirrors in particular throughout Wide Sargasso Sea to symbolize Antoinette’s double identity, madness, and ultimately deteriorated selfhood under a system of patriarchal oppression.

Mirrors initially play a large part in Antoinette’s chaotic childhood to convey her double identity and fluidity between social groups. In a pivotal scene when the Jamaican natives siege Antoinette’s home at Coulibri Estate, Antoinette uses her passive and poetic rhetoric to describe an otherwise disastrous situation. When she and her family finally get out of their burning home, Antoinette alludes to mirrors as she runs toward her childhood friend Tia: “When I was close I saw the jagged stone in her hand but I did not see her throw it. I did not feel it either, only something wet, running down my face. I looked at her and I saw her face crumple up as she began to cry. We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass” (Rhys 45). This scene, fraught with intensity and emotion, serves as an interesting juxtaposition of two different female experiences. Antoinette, a white Creole girl living in Spanish Town, Jamaica in the midst of post slavery illegalization, often refers to herself as a “white cockroach.” Throughout her narrative, she fails to belong to any one social group, as she cannot relate to the black residents of Spanish Town but is also too “exotic” to fit into any component of English culture. Tia serves as her double in a significant way, and as a reflection of Antoinette, she acts out the anger and grief Antoinette ultimately seeks to express but from the other side of the mirror of racial separation. Tia is an image of an identity Antoinette longs to be her own: a black woman with a sense of belonging, not a white Creole woman strung in between any true community. The concept of the looking glass and Tia as a double seems to iterate what Antoinette knows, that she will never find the sense of belonging or identity that she wants for herself.

As Antoinette’s madness develops, mirrors reflect her alienation from any sense of identity. Part Three of the novel is a frightening culmination of Antoinette’s psychosis through seclusion that poses the question of whether her madness is intrinsic or just a consequence of her poisonous treatment and history. Annette, Antoinette’s mother, despite her short appearance in the novel, had a habit of constantly looking for her own reflection in the mirror. Antoinette adopts this part of her mother, perhaps indicating their shared need to be seen in a world that neither invites nor accepts them. When Rochester puts Antoinette in the attic, he further amplifies her madness by making her isolated and disconnected. In rhetoric constantly jumping between the past and present, she describes her mirrorless prison when she says, “There is no looking-glass here and I don’t know what I am like now. I remember watching myself brush my hair and how my eyes looked back at me. The girl I saw was myself yet not quite myself. Long ago when I was a child and very lonely I tried to kiss her. But the glass was between us – hard, cold and misted over with my break” (Rhys 182). Even when Antoinette had access to a mirror, her sense of isolation and alienation from her image demonstrates her general lack of selfhood. As a child, Antoinette tries to kiss her image in the mirror as if to unite the two halves of her cultural identity but is met by the cold glass. By calling her the wrong name and not giving her a mirror, Rochester seeks to erase her most fundamental sense of existence. However, by the time she lives in the Thornfield attic, her madness has become her identity more than anything else. The lack of mirrors and Antoinette’s lifelong desire to close the gap between two cultural identities serve to personify her madness in this passage and accounts for her inability to fully grasp reality.

Finally, mirrors serve as a means to reflect Antoinette’s deteriorated, colonized self as a result of patriarchal oppression. Her identity has experienced an irreversible split, which is evident in Part Three when she escapes from the attic and woefully explores Thornfield. She describes her encounter with a mirror in a dream-like trance: “I went into the hall again with the tall candle in my hand. It was then that I saw her – the ghost. The woman with streaming hair. She was surrounded by a gilt frame but I knew her. I dropped the candle I was carrying and it caught the end of the tablecloth and I saw flames shoot up. As I ran or perhaps floated or flew I called help me Christophine help me and looking behind me I saw that I had been helped” (Rhys 188-189). Rhys illustrates how Antoinette’s identity is so diminished through her oppression and entrapment that when she looks in the mirror in this pivotal and traumatically poetic scene she does not quite recognize her reflection. The use of the mirror itself, an impenetrable wall of separation, represents patriarchal judgment, and Antoinette believes she has seen a ghost-like woman with streaming hair, but she is a stranger to herself and does not recognize her identity as Bertha Mason (Sarvan). Her selfhood has undergone an irreversible split in which she will not recover from. In the same way that Tia was previously her mirror image and “dark double,” Antoinette seeks to destroy Bertha, her other self, and Thornfield, a manifestation of her patriarchal imprisonment.

Rhys uses mirrors throughout Wide Sargasso Sea to embody Antoinette’s double identity, mental break, and deteriorated identity under systematic patriarchal imprisonment. In a conversation with Rochester in Part Two, Antoinette pleads with her husband to listen to her story and consider her side when she says, “There is always the other side, always” (Rhys). In the same way that the mirror acts as third space for Antoinette’s mental deterioration, Wide Sargasso Sea is a third space that allows for the enunciation of the other in which Rhys locates the racial and feminist struggle of Antoinette (Reavis). Apparent through the mirror and an intimate look into Antoinette’s mind, Rhys entraps the reader and creates compassion for a woman whose helplessness through patriarchal oppression is often remarkably familiar.

Works Cited

Reavis, Serena. “”Myself Yet Not Quite Myself”: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and a Third Space of Enunciation.” 2005. University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Document. 4 May 2016. <https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/listing.aspx?id=927>.

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982. Print. Sarvan, Charles.

“Flight, Entrapment, and Madness in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.” International Fiction Review January 1999: 58-65. Journal Article.

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The Influence of Slavery on Human Relationship

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

Jean Rhys novel Wide Sargasso Sea is one of the most important post-colonial works that examines the effect of colonialism on Jamaica. Part of this examination is the exploration of how the aftermath of slavery affects Antoinette’s relations with the Afro-Caribbean people in general and in particular with two prominent Afro-Caribbean characters in the novel Tia and Christophine. Rhys examines how slavery has both beneficial and destructive effects on her relations with the Afro-Caribbean community. Rhys demonstrates how the exploitation, suppression of the Afro-Caribbean people and their lack of compensation and lack of improved living standards has generated racial tensions and fostered the development of mutual hate. Moreover, Rhys illustrates how this atmosphere of mutual hatred caused by slavery impacts Antoinette’s relationship with the Afro-Caribbean population of post-colonial Jamaica. Rhys also exhibits the effect of figurative slavery on Antoinette’s marriage with her husband, whose name is not initially stated, but implicitly identified as Rochester (from Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre[1]). Jean Rhys explores the after effects of slavery on Jamaica by looking at the relationship between Antoinette and the island’s native Afro-Caribbean population.

The relationship explored by Rhys is characterized by racial tensions. One of the ways this conflict is portrayed by Rhys is the use of derogatory terms. Throughout the exposition of the book, which is set on the island of Jamaica, characters of both races use racial slurs to refer to each other. One example of this is when a native Afro-Caribbean girl says, “’Go away white cockroach, go away’” (Rhys. p.7)[2] to Antoinette on her way home. The term “white cockroach” is a term used by the Afro-Caribbean people to describe Antoinette and her family, as they are white but due to their lack of wealth not part of the white elite of Jamaica. The use of the term “cockroach” demonstrates how antagonistic the relationship is as the term cockroach connotes vermin. Furthermore the fact that it happened on Antoinette’s way home shows the ordinariness of the situation. The racial tension is also conveyed through the violence of the natives towards Antoinette and her family. This violence begins with small incidents such as violence against animals that are owned by Antoinette’s family. For instance the reader is informed by Antoinette that “they killed our horse” (Rhys. p.18)[3]. This violence then spirals into the forceful eviction of Antoinette and her family from their estate “Coulibri” through a riot by members of the Afro-Caribbean community that set fire to their home. Antoinette’s use of a hyperbole to describe the scenery reveals the momentousness of the situation. She says, “[the] flames [are] shooting up to the sky” (Rhys. p.20)[4]. Rhys also uses a hyperbole to mirror Antoinette’s young age, as children often use exaggerations in their language. These racial tensions portrayed by Rhys seem to portray the Afro-Caribbean population in a bad light, but in the historical context of the novel, one might argue that the anger of the Afro-Caribbean community is justified and understandable, as they suffered tremendous horrors, during the period of slavery.

The negative effects of slavery on the relationships between Antoinette and the Afro-Caribbean community are also shown by Rhys through Antoinette’s interactions with Tia. Tia was Antoinette’s only friend until an argument drove them apart. The abrupt ending of their friendship and the disappointment it caused is later outdone by Tia’s betrayal of Antoinette. Antoinette’s early relationship to Tia, after their first encounter is characterised by their mutual friendship. Antoinette says, that “Tia was my friend and I met her daily” (Rhys. p.7) [5]. The daily routine of their relationship illustrates their close bond. However, this bond later breaks up over a petty bet of whether or not Antoinette could “turn a somersault under water” (Rhys. p.8)[6]. A disagreement about whether or not Antoinette actually completed this somersault spirals out of control and results in the end of their friendship. This is significant as both express their feelings using racial slurs Antoinette calls Tia a “cheating nigger” (Rhys. p.8) [7] and Tia refers to her former friend as a “white nigger” (Rhys. p.8)[8]. The use of those very strong and pejorative racial slurs informs the reader about both of the girls’ upbringing and the social acceptability of racism in post-slavery Jamaica, as it is highly unlikely that the two girls used those terms without having acquired them from their surroundings. The racism expressed by Antoinette and Tia highlights how saturated Jamaica was with race-related hate and this hate can be directly linked to slavery.

In contrast to Antoinette’s relation with the Afro-Caribbean community and her interactions with Tia, which illustrate the negative effects of slavery on relationships, the connection between Antoinette and Christophine is not dominated by mutual hate and distrust, but rather by genuine affection and maternal love. Their relationship is Rhys description of a relationship that many female slaves and children of plantation owners experienced. Christophine, just as many other female slaves was forced to function as Antoinette’s surrogate mother, as it was seen as inappropriate for upper class women, like Antoinette’s mother once was, to take care of her own child. Even though their relationship was forced upon them it resulted in a mother like bond. Rhys demonstrates the amiable aspects of their relationship especially through to what great extent Antoinette feels secure with Christophine by her side. Antoinette says that without Christophine next to her at night the “safe feeling left” (Rhys. p.18)[9] her. This highlights Antoinette’s dependency on Christophine and her trust in her. Rhys uses Antoinette’s relationship to Christophine to examine how slavery can lead to a mother like bond between two people from different social standings.

Wide Sargasso Sea does not only explore the impact of literal slavery as a result of colonialism but also the concept of figurative slavery in the form of a woman’s childlike dependence on her husband. The relationship between Antoinette and her husband Rochester is a vivid example of figurative slavery, as Antoinette is subordinated towards her husband who has the power to rob her of her freedom, by which he transforms Antoinette’s figurative slavery into literal slavery. This metamorphose intensifies Antoinette’s reliance on her husband. This dependency expresses itself primarily as an economic dependency. The reader is informed of this financial need through the dialogue between Antoinette and her surrogate mother Christophine. Christophine suggests Antoinette to leave Rochester to re-start her life however Antoinette tells Christophine and thereby the reader that: “’I [Antoinette] am not rich now, I [Antoinette] have no money of my own at all, everything I had belongs to him…that is the English law’” (Rhys. p.68)[10]. The interaction between Christophine and Antoinette portrays the subservience of a woman on her husband and how this impacts a marriage by equipping the husband with supremacy and by entrapping the wife. A further example of Antoinette’s entrapment and figurative slavery is her name being subsumed to “Bertha”. Her husband, Rochester refrains from calling her Antoinette as it reminds him of her crazed and deranged mother. This name change is an act of dominance and demonstrates his power in the relationship, as he possess the power to alter another human beings identity. The name “Bertha” is of importance as Antoinette is robbed not only of her dignity through the loss of her last name, but also of her Creole heritage. Antoinette’s Creole heritage makes her unique and exotic and distinguishes her from her husband. The changing of Antoinette’s name to Bertha demonstrates Rochester’s inability of dealing with the exotic and different.

In conclusion, Rhys vividly examines the results of the abolition of slavery in Jamaica and how it affects the protagonist’s relationship with the local Afro-Caribbean community, especially with Tia and Christophine. Tia and Christophine portray the two different possible outcomes of slavery’s impact on Antoinette’s relationship with the Afro-Caribbean population of post-colonial Jamaica. Whereas Tia represents the destructive impact of an environment drenched with hate generated by slavery and Christophine embodies the positive impacts of a relationship forced upon by slavery. Rhys further examines the effect of figurative slavery on Antoinette’s marriage with her husband Rochester.

Citations

[1] Jean Rhys‘ Wide Sargasso Sea’s “Antoinette” is an exploration of the character the “Mad Creole Woman” from Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre it is a common literary practice to refer to Antoinette’s husband as “Rochester”.

[2] Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea London: Penguin Books Student Edition 2001

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] ibid.

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Critical Review of William Harris’s Wide Sargasso Sea Criticism

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

In Dr. William Harris’s Carnival of Psyche: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, an analysis of Rhys’s 1966 postmodern “prequel” to Jane Eyre, Harris attempts to evaluate the significance of “intuitive myth” on the novel’s psyche. “Attempt,” however, is the operative word here. Without a thesis or clear argument, Harris’s essay feels more like a meandering, purposeless discussion of his thoughts about Wide Sargasso Sea, which range from its connection to The Invisible Man to the role of structuralism in nihilist philosophy. This would not be such a problem if Harris’s individual points were well-argued, but, unfortunately, they are not. Predicated on very little textual evidence and worsened by convoluted syntax, Harris’s claims amount to little more than opinion and badly-articulated opinion at that. Furthermore, Harris’s central argument — that Jean Rhys’s allusions to myth are intuitive, not intentional — is extremely difficult to prove. And Harris does not rise to his own challenge. He fails to define the difference between intuitive and intentional allusion, offer any coherent evidence to suggest the Jean Rhys’s allusions were intuitive, or explain why it matters whether Rhys intended these allusions or not. Ultimately, Harris’s convoluted style, meandering structure, and lack of textual evidence makes proving an impossible claim even harder.

Harris’s central argument about “intuitive myth” is, for the most part, predicated on one quotations alone, neither of which are particularly well-analyzed or used to prove his point. Harris rests most of his case on Antoinette’s reference to a “tree of life in flames” in her dream, which Harris (indirectly) connects to a South American creation myth. This allusion is not difficult to recognize; Rhy’s description of the burning tree of life is very plausibly a reference to Arawak and Macusi legends of the “The food bearing tree of the world, which is fired by the Caribs at a time of war when the Arawaks seek refuge in its branches. The fire rages and drives Arawaks up into space until they are themselves burnt and converted into sparks which continue to rise into the sky to become the Pleiades.” However, the heart of Harris’s argument — that these myths are intuitive — he never proves. Instead he simply states that they are, using italics for emphasis, saying “Wide Sargasso sea…has a profoundly intuitive spirit” and asserting that the “tree of life myth” (and other myths which he references only in vague, single-word quotations) “are intuitively woven into the tapestry of Wide Sargasso Sea.” Furthermore, in addition to never demonstrating why he believes Rhys’s inclusion of these myths was not “deliberate,” Harris fails to explain why the intuitive vs. deliberate inclusion matters. He mentions briefly that “one cannot avoid the ambiguities that pull at that [allusion to the “sky of fiction” and “tree of life] and suppress it still into the sphere of symbolic widowhood.” This ambiguity may be one implication of intuitive myths, but Harris makes this point so briefly and indirectly that it becomes negligible. Ultimately, Harris’s argument, while interesting, lacks in any real substance.

Harris further obscures his already-lacking argument with convoluted syntax, unclear metaphors, and a meandering structure. Despite promising to “confine himself on this occasion to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea,” Harris begins his argument with a two-paragraph digression about Invisible Man, which he does connect in any way to Wide Sargasso Sea. When he does get to the novel at hand, he begins by saying, “Wide Sargasso Sea varies the rainbow arc between cultures in foundly intuitive spirit. To appreciate that variation we need to recall the bridge between sky and earth that is implicit in the rainbow arc from Central to South America in Quetzalcoatl and Yurokon. Then we need to revise that arc or bridge into a rather different compression of features.” What, exactly, “the rainbow arch” is or why he expects readers to “recall it,” Harris does not explain. However, he sets up his most important point — the reference to the creation myth — upon this confusing metaphor, making the rest of his argument equally as confusing. After an short but baffling discussion of this “intuitive myth,” drenched in convoluted syntax and unproven statements, Harris segues into an analysis of the relationship between Rochester and Antoinette. This discussion is lengthy and hard-to-follow — focusing on the “psychical and immaterial re-marriage of Rochester and re-dressed Bertha into Antoinette in the ‘sky of fiction” — and, other than the ‘sky of fiction’ reference, is not at all connected to intuitive myths. After some discussion of Obeah, Harris then caps off his argument with the greatest departure from this topic yet: the relationship between structuralism and nihilism. Not only is Wide Sargasso Sea not mentioned once in the last two pages, but the discussion itself feels utterly irrelevant to the larger theme of the essay.

William Harris’s Carnival of Psyche: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is an unfortunate example of the way flowery language and a commitment to originality can obscure the true substance of an argument. Densely abstract, Harris’s piece stops being an analysis and starts becoming a piece of work that needs analyzing itself. Filled with unexplained metaphors and run-on-sentences, Harris may spend a paragraph explaining what he means by “inarticulate” but he clearly can’t recognize the trait in his own work.

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Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea: Comparing the Peculiarities of Narrative Techniques

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

In a first-person narrative reflecting on the past, like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Jean Rhys’ expansion thereof, Wide Sargasso Sea, the presentation of the memories which constitute the story immensely affects the thematic impact of the work by reflecting the narrator’s feelings about their experiences. In the aforementioned novels, both narrators’ memories are colored by their own impressions of particular times in their lives; thus, the tone that each speaker uses reflects their circumstances at the time, and their respective fates as a whole. Specifically, it reflects Jane’s eventual happiness with Rochester, Antoinette’s perpetual isolation, and Rochester’s entrapment in his marriage.

Both novels begin when the narrator is a child trapped in an unaccepting, isolating environment. As children, they both naturally have an imperfect grasp on their surroundings. Both accounts give a somewhat disjointed, distorted narrative, which the reader understands is not entirely trustworthy; however, it is important to distinguish that Antoinette’s narration is far more so than Jane’s. Her narrative skips suddenly from one event to another, and from specific instances to generalizations of her life and descriptions of the scenery whenever it is relevant. As she ages into adolescence, this effect becomes less severe, but it remains still. Conversely, Jane’s presentation of events is more organized, and flows between events without much obtrusive interruption in the atmosphere.

This disparity reflects both Antoinette’s less “civilized” upbringing in the Caribbean and her foreboding fate of a descent into madness like her predecessors. As Rhys makes her protagonist’s roots evident, she shows how Antoinette’s exposure to a nature-surrounded upbringing by former slaves gives her a more natural, disjointed sense of time than the rigid, linear sort which those like Rochester and Jane learn in England. Thus, Antoinette’s sense of time seems disorderly in the eyes of a modern Western reader. Combined with the knowledge later revealed regarding the Cosway family history and possible prior knowledge of her fate from Jane Eyre, this cements the reader’s sense that Antoinette is fated for madness. In contrast, Jane’s narration is more organized and linear, reflecting, in addition to her strict and well-educated upbringing, the fact that she never strays too far from stability; even Lowood, where she is isolated and miserable, eventually proves to be a place where she can prosper as a student and as a teacher. Fittingly, Jane does finally find happiness with Mr. Rochester. Rochester’s narration in Wide Sargasso Sea, too, is more linear than that of his first wife; his narration flows between events with less breaking in the narrative — naturally, seeing as he is the most educated narrator of all these three.

The language which the respective narrators use sets a tone immediately in each distinct section of their life. In Jane Eyre, these treatments emphasize the effect each experience has on Jane. For example, she arrives at her cousins’ home in a blizzard, trudging through deep snow, and remains snowed in for some time. This circumstance creates the perception that she is trapped there. Notably, the novel begins rather somberly, reflecting Jane’s mistreatment and isolation in Gateshead and at Lowood Institute. After Jane matures and is able to leave these oppressive institutions to become a governess, however, the change of pace stimulates her yearn for adventure and she is able to experience more things in a more vibrant light. In contrast, in Wide Sargasso Sea, this same effect establishes a consistent overtone of isolation for both Antoinette, on account of her family history, and for Rochester, on account of his foreign origin. In the first section of Antoinette’s narration, a sense of being lost is tangible; in the third, where she is locked up in Rochester’s attic, the prevailing feeling is one of helplessness and hopelessness. When Rochester narrates, he automatically sets an impression of uncertainty about the nature of his marriage and his new surroundings. His view of his life is overwhelmingly pessimistic and defeated; after all, his account begins with the phrase “so it was all over,” (59), automatically emphasizing an ending and creating a pessimistic tone. Although Rochester presents this ending as something which may have happened “for better or for worse,” he soon makes it evident to the reader that his move and his marriage bring him misery.

The narrators’ selective memories also have a hand in affecting the tone. Jane notably tends to remark on the weather before recounting a major event, particularly an unfortunate one. The weather conditions she mentions also reflect her general feeling about an era; while recounting her stay at the oppressive Lowood Institute, she often remarks the cold and unpleasant weather, but she consistently notes excellent weather while with Rochester at the festive, open Thornfield Hall, especially when their relationship is on an upturn. She even talks about “twilight and snowflakes” (113) when she is unable to see Rochester, indicating that, after their meeting, his presence is integral to her happiness. Selective memories such as these affect the general atmosphere of a scene and therefore express to the reader Jane’s overall emotional state. Rochester, too, uses this technique to set a tone in his own account; at the beginning of his narrative, the first time we see him and Antoinette together from his perspective, he remarks “sad leaning cocoanut [sic] palms,” a “shingly beach,” and an uneven collection of huts in a village macabrely called “Massacre.” In opening his section of the narrative with these details, he establishes a sad, dull tone which reflects his feelings about the island and about his marriage. Later, he mentions the fast-dying pale flowers outside his window (79) before he states his first major criticisms of his bride; she is inconsistent — i.e. showing the earliest signs of her insanity — and has unwelcome unfeminine traits. Antoinette’s narration is also marked by selective omission, although it is never quite clear whether she does this out of a desire to hide her past or out of a simple inability to remember her past coherently. Regardless, her failure to mention details such as her family’s history of mental illness and her former relationship with her cousin Sandi make it evident that she is not a reliable or wholly truthful narrator.

The choices Rhys makes regarding narrative voice serve to establish an overarching feeling of unhappiness for her two protagonists, in creating tone which conveys isolation and restraint. In contrast, the tone Charlotte Brontë sets through Jane Eyre’s narration stays emotionally vibrant, even as her life strays far from perfection. Together, these narrative voices emphasize the eventual destiny in these novels; Antoinette dies in isolation, while Rochester, after his dull marriage to her, finds mutual love and happiness with Jane.

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A Response to William Harris’s Wide Sargasso Sea Criticism: Carnival of Psyche

August 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Dr. William Harris’s Carnival of Psyche: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, an analysis of Rhys’s 1966 postmodern “prequel” to Jane Eyre, Harris attempts to evaluate the significance of “intuitive myth” on the novel’s psyche. “Attempt,” however, is the operative word here. Without a thesis or clear argument, Harris’s essay feels more like a meandering, purposeless discussion of his thoughts about Wide Sargasso Sea, which range from its connection to The Invisible Man to the role of structuralism in nihilist philosophy. This would not be such a problem if Harris’s individual points were well-argued, but, unfortunately, they are not. Predicated on very little textual evidence and worsened by convoluted syntax, Harris’s claims amount to little more than opinion and badly-articulated opinion at that. Furthermore, Harris’s central argument — that Jean Rhys’s allusions to myth are intuitive, not intentional — is extremely difficult to prove. And Harris does not rise to his own challenge. He fails to define the difference between intuitive and intentional allusion, offer any coherent evidence to suggest the Jean Rhys’s allusions were intuitive, or explain why it matters whether Rhys intended these allusions or not. Ultimately, Harris’s convoluted style, meandering structure, and lack of textual evidence makes proving an impossible claim even harder.

Harris’s central argument about “intuitive myth” is, for the most part, predicated on one quotations alone, neither of which are particularly well-analyzed or used to prove his point. Harris rests most of his case on Antoinette’s reference to a “tree of life in flames” in her dream, which Harris (indirectly) connects to a South American creation myth. This allusion is not difficult to recognize; Rhy’s description of the burning tree of life is very plausibly a reference to Arawak and Macusi legends of the “The food bearing tree of the world, which is fired by the Caribs at a time of war when the Arawaks seek refuge in its branches. The fire rages and drives Arawaks up into space until they are themselves burnt and converted into sparks which continue to rise into the sky to become the Pleiades.” However, the heart of Harris’s argument — that these myths are intuitive — he never proves. Instead he simply states that they are, using italics for emphasis, saying “Wide Sargasso sea…has a profoundly intuitive spirit” and asserting that the “tree of life myth” (and other myths which he references only in vague, single-word quotations) “are intuitively woven into the tapestry of Wide Sargasso Sea.” Furthermore, in addition to never demonstrating why he believes Rhys’s inclusion of these myths was not “deliberate,” Harris fails to explain why the intuitive vs. deliberate inclusion matters. He mentions briefly that “one cannot avoid the ambiguities that pull at that [allusion to the “sky of fiction” and “tree of life] and suppress it still into the sphere of symbolic widowhood.” This ambiguity may be one implication of intuitive myths, but Harris makes this point so briefly and indirectly that it becomes negligible. Ultimately, Harris’s argument, while interesting, lacks in any real substance.

Harris further obscures his already-lacking argument with convoluted syntax, unclear metaphors, and a meandering structure. Despite promising to “confine himself on this occasion to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea,” Harris begins his argument with a two-paragraph digression about Invisible Man, which he does connect in any way to Wide Sargasso Sea. When he does get to the novel at hand, he begins by saying, “Wide Sargasso Sea varies the rainbow arc between cultures in foundly intuitive spirit. To appreciate that variation we need to recall the bridge between sky and earth that is implicit in the rainbow arc from Central to South America in Quetzalcoatl and Yurokon. Then we need to revise that arc or bridge into a rather different compression of features.” What, exactly, “the rainbow arch” is or why he expects readers to “recall it,” Harris does not explain. However, he sets up his most important point — the reference to the creation myth — upon this confusing metaphor, making the rest of his argument equally as confusing. After an short but baffling discussion of this “intuitive myth,” drenched in convoluted syntax and unproven statements, Harris segues into an analysis of the relationship between Rochester and Antoinette. This discussion is lengthy and hard-to-follow — focusing on the “psychical and immaterial re-marriage of Rochester and re-dressed Bertha into Antoinette in the ‘sky of fiction” — and, other than the ‘sky of fiction’ reference, is not at all connected to intuitive myths. After some discussion of Obeah, Harris then caps off his argument with the greatest departure from this topic yet: the relationship between structuralism and nihilism. Not only is Wide Sargasso Sea not mentioned once in the last two pages, but the discussion itself feels utterly irrelevant to the larger theme of the essay.

William Harris’s Carnival of Psyche: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is an unfortunate example of the way flowery language and a commitment to originality can obscure the true substance of an argument. Densely abstract, Harris’s piece stops being an analysis and starts becoming a piece of work that needs analyzing itself. Filled with unexplained metaphors and run-on-sentences, Harris may spend a paragraph explaining what he means by “inarticulate” but he clearly can’t recognize the trait in his own work.

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Gender Theory’s Prevalence in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

August 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys weaves the tale of a severely-oppressed woman and her trials through life. Several critics have argued for post-enlightenment, post-colonialism, and identity-based themes in Wide Sargasso Sea, claiming these shape the novel and present ideas otherwise dismissed. While the intention of these critics is to broaden readers’ perspectives on the book, one idea is lacking in expansion: gender schema theory – which serves as the key premise for the story. Rhys dominates the novel with gender schema theoretical themes, utilizing Rochester and Antoinette as representatives for their respective sex’s ideals. This critical analysis will expand on the gender schema theoretical concept by presenting complementary ideas – that is, Rochester and Antoinette’s inability to abandon their early-developed gender ideals, the duo’s opposition of said ideals and the resulting predicaments, and each of their attempts to modify each other out of subconscious fear of what they will be reduced to without the other.

Over the decades, critics have hyper-analyzed events in Antoinette’s life and the relationship between her and Rochester. Jennifer Gilchrist, throughout her critical analysis, identifies and elaborates on several subtleties of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, clarifying the novel for her quasi-gender theory/post-Enlightenment perspective. She points out that, despite abolition having risen into effect, slavery was still rather prevalent, but in an unofficial and understated manner — that is, female to male subjugation. Gilchrist further asserts that the minor language gap most readers likely faced (Jamaican patois versus the standard English dialect) was intentional by Rhys, and was employed to place indistinct feelings in the reader (such as a sensation of disconnect from Antoinette) — as well as deliberate miscommunications — that enhanced the story. Finally, Gilchrist transcribes that Wide Sargasso Sea may be read as anti-Bildungsroman, and that Antoinette did not ultimately perceive her identity through the pre-established literal (lineage, etc.) or inner (beliefs and values) methodologies — rather, she experienced several vexatious situations throughout her life that eventually allowed her to ‘find’ herself. These topics, both independently and cooperatively, build Gilchrist’s analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea and supplement Rhys’s original text with further insight.

Throughout Alexandra Neel’s critical essay, she argues that Rhys’s ideologies, writing mechanisms, and plot developments in Wide Sargasso Sea are all indicative of Antoinette’s “emptied-out personhood”, or seeming loss of identity. Neel initially contends that, in Rhys’s novel, Antoinette’s identity loss was partially due to the legal decisions of the era, specifically those regarding emancipation and the ending of slavery within the region. She proceeds to suggest that the Creole women and former slaves are socially — and civilly — deceased, also contributing to Antoinette’s dilemma of selfhood (as her and her mother are Creole). Neel additionally establishes that Rhys shifted the time frame of the novel with the intention of incorporating apprenticeship and, needless to say, personhood into the story. Neel vindicates these literary concepts by referencing legal/historical documents and authorities, as well as providing an in-depth analysis of portions of the novel, which ultimately support her primary argument.

Robert Kendrik opines across his critical analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea that Jean Rhys utilized Edward Rochester, Antoinette’s husband, to illustrate the patriarchal limits of the era. He states that Rochester becomes “violently defensive” as he is submerged in a reality that does not harbor the same boundaries and definitions of masculinity and patriarchal dominance as he is used to. Kendrik proceeds to argue that, while Rochester has married Antoinette with the intention of gaining power, dominance, and an acceptable position (for a male) in English society, he finds his ideals of these things are threatened by said marriage (as well as by the Caribbean and its ideologies). Moreover, Kendrik asserts that Rochester possesses two doubles within the novel, Daniel Cosway and Sandi, and that these doubles further enunciate Rochester’s masculinity complex in a de-emphasized manner. Kendrik corroborates his reasonings by citing text from Wide Sargasso Sea, other authors that maintain similar beliefs, and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Nese Senel proposes various concepts throughout his critical analysis of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, all of which support his predominant argument of post-colonialism and its allowance for a broader understanding of the novel. Senel commences his analysis by contending that the primary intention of Wide Sargasso Sea is to present an identity for the formerly-repressed Creole peoples, which can be discerned from this post-colonialist perspective. He proceeds to suggest that Antoinette’s insanity is provoked by the triple oppression she undergoes from the patriarchy, white English society and freshly emancipated slaves, and Rochester — all of which were probable for a Creole woman to endure in the West Indies, and especially during the era ensuing colonialism. Senel finalizes his essay by claiming that Rhys, in her storytelling of Antoinette and Rochester, audaciously downgraded the indigenous residents of the region (depicting them as untrustworthy, criminalistic, and abusive) in order to enhance the plot. Senel frequently quotes the text and references Rhys’s literary methodologies to provide substantiation for his reasoning, as well as his fundamental point.

Wide Sargasso Sea is an exploration of gender schema theory, with Antoinette and Rochester each depicting this cognitive theory for their individual sexes.

The plot develops from Antoinette and Rochester’s inability and unwillingness to abandon their early-developed ideals of gender. For instance, Christophine criticizes Rochester for prioritizing money over his wife, saying, “Everybody know that you marry her for her money and you take it all…[Antoinette] don’t care for money—it’s nothing for her…You make love to her till she drunk with it” (92 Rhys). This is a prime example of differing ideals. Rochester, a dominant English male, has learned to value money and power, while Antoinette, a Caribbean woman, cherishes relationships and/or the idea of ‘love’, as suggested by the use of the term “drunk”, which implies an addiction or dependence.

In the beginning of Part II, Rochester’s tendency to compare the Caribbean landscapes to that of England’s is paired with a similar tendency to compare Antoinette to an English girl, as suggested when she offers him mountain water from a leaf, “Looking up smiling, she might have been any pretty English girl and to please her I drank” (42 Rhys). Having grown and established his ideals in England, Rochester mistakenly attempts to apply these ideals to a woman of an entirely different culture. This scene marks the beginning of Rochester’s comparison between Antoinette and what he believes a woman should be, eventually leading to his discontented state and attempts to enforce subjugation.

Antoinette, raised in an environment that promotes ease, relaxation and eroticism, has learned to revere the idea of love, portrayed when she desperately goes to Christophine for help with Rochester and says, “‘That is what I wish and that is why I came here. You can make people love…’” (Rhys 67). Additionally, her unsafe and ever-traumatic childhood may have contributed to her desire for safety — particularly, safety provided by a lover. This is specifically mentioned in Part II: “‘You are safe,’ I’d say. She’d liked that — to be told ‘you are safe’” (55 Rhys). So, while Antoinette seeks genuine love and safety, Rochester maintains his English standards for the Caribbean and Antoinette, repeatedly setting himself up for disappointment.

Although at the surface the difficulties between Antoinette and Rochester appear to be power, culture, and perhaps bigotry-based, the real issue lies in their opposition of ideologies. The characters, in fact, do not realize it themselves, and so these problems are never resolved.

Most of the initial opposition between Antoinette and Rochester is understated. At first glance it may appear trivial, but instances of opposition gradually increase in frequency and in strength. For example, one of the first conflicts (although subtle) was when Antoinette showed Rochester to their bedroom at Granbois: “I crowned myself with one of the [frangipani] wreaths and made a face in the glass. ‘I hardly think it suits my handsome face, do you?’…I took the wreath off. It fell on the floor and as I went towards the window I stepped on it” (43 Rhys). Although there is no verbal disagreement here, Rochester’s apparent intolerance toward Caribbean cultures, even with something as simple as a wreath of frangipani, represents a clash of ideals. Despite this, Antoinette makes no indication that this instance bothers her, if she even notices.

Another instance of conflict was when the duo lightly argued over whose environment was less believable and more like a dream: “‘Well,’ I answered annoyed, ‘that is precisely how your beautiful land seems to me, quite unreal and like a dream.’ ‘But how can rivers and mountains and the sea be unreal?’ ‘And how can millions of people, their houses and their streets be unreal?’ ‘More easily,’ she said, ‘…Yes a big city must be like a dream.’ ‘No, this is unreal and like a dream,’ I thought” (Rhys 48). While these two argue over whose homeland is less believable, it is clear to the reader that it is all relative. Rochester and Antoinette do not realize that their home being vastly different from the other’s results in differing opinions, especially concerning such matters.

A major occurrence of opposition is Rochester’s attempt to change (and emotionally damage) Antoinette by forcing an English name upon her. This is evident in Part II, when Antoinette finally questions Rochester about the name, “‘Don’t laugh like that, Bertha.’ ‘My name is not Bertha; why do you call me Bertha?’ ‘Because it is a name I am particularly fond of. I think of you as Bertha’” (Rhys 81). Whether or not Rochester is feigning innocence, Antoinette is evidently unhappy with her unrequested English name, and neither appear aware of the other’s motives or cause for distress.

The characters each also go to extremes to modify the other (Antoinette resorts to obeah so Rochester will love her, and Rochester brings Antoinette to England against her will) out of subconscious fear (as opposed to the apparent frustration) of what they will be reduced to without the other.

Near the end of Part II, Rochester (and perhaps the reader) realizes that Antoinette, who seems so hopelessly dependent on him throughout the novel, did not love him specifically — but rather, just someone. She loved the idea of having someone there. In this realization scene, Rochester comes to this conclusion by battling his inner voice: “‘She love you so much, so much. She thirsty for you…’ Sneer to the last, Devil. Do you think that I don’t know? She thirsts for anyone — not for me…” (99 Rhys). It is easy to conclude that Antoinette merely yearns for the safety that Rochester provides, perhaps for fear that she will wither without such reassurance.

In an effort to alter Rochester and bring him closer to her ideal of a strong, supportive and caring Caribbean man, Antoinette recourses to obeah to force Rochester into loving her, as portrayed in this scene: “‘If the man don’t love you, I can’t make him love you.’ ‘Yes you can, I know you can. That is what I wish and that is why I came here. You can make people love or hate. Or…or die’” (67 Rhys.) Antoinette may fear she is losing Rochester, and attempts to yank him back through unconventional means.

Rochester’s motives are similar to Antoinette’s. He wishes to force her to conform to what he believes a woman — or rather, an English woman — should be. Besides him changing Antoinette’s name to Bertha, a traditional English name, Rochester also forcefully moves Antoinette to England. Near the end of Part II, Rochester thinks, “She said she loves this place. This is the last she’ll see of it. I’ll watch for one tear, one human tear” (99 Rhys). In addition to wishing to cause Antoinette pain, Rochester relocates the two of them to his homeland, England, so that he can re-establish dominance over her.

Ultimately, Rhys’s gender theory-focused writing mechanisms and plotlines allow the reader to comprehend gender schema theory in a broader and more applicable sense. She utilizes Rochester and Antoinette in her novel to portray how this theory applies in a quasi-relatable personalized scenario, albeit in a different era, so that readers can understand the effects and developments that a clash of these ideals can impose on one’s life. The prevalence of this theory within the text may also suggest a cause for social difficulties of the world – specifically sexism, which is also a noteworthy theme in the story. While all literary critics (including myself) can do is make educated guesses at Rhys’s true meaning or intentions of her novel, it is quite possible that Wide Sargasso Sea is intended to open the eyes of the readers – providing the realization that gender schema theory has a larger basis in society than appears at first glance.

Works Cited

Gilchrist, Jennifer. “Women, Slavery, and the Problem of Freedom in Wide Sargasso Sea.” Twentieth Century Literature, 58.3, 2012: 462+. Academic Onefile. Web. 31 Oct. 2017.

Kendrik, Robert. “Edward Rochester and the Margins of Masculinity in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.” Papers on Language & Literature, vol. 30, no. 3, 1994, p. 235+. Academic OneFile. Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.

Neel, Alexandra. “‘Qui Est La?”’: Negative Personhood in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, 50.2, June 2017: 171+. Academic Onefile. Web. 2 Nov. 2017.

Rhys, Jean, Judith L. Raiskin, and Charlotte Brontë. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999. Print.

Senel, Nese. “A Postcolonial Reading of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.” Journal of Language and Literature Education, no. 11, 2014, p. 38+. Academic Onefile. 9 Nov.2017.

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To Fight or to Run: The Representation of Aggression Wide Sargasso Sea

July 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

A vast area of the northern Atlantic Ocean houses a breed of seaweed that is addressed by the name sargassam. This portion of the northern Atlantic is known as the Sargasso Sea, notorious among passing sailors onto whose ships it is reputed to enmesh. Upon their meeting, friction is apparent between the surface of a ship’s hull and the skin of a strand of sargassam, as it is between the characters presented in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. The complex post-colonial mentalities of West Indian populations, both native and foreign, and the underlying cultural differences between the two led to this occasional generation of both behavioral and emotional resentment and aggression from both groups. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s portrayal of the reactions that characters display to aggression from external sources is achieved through her constructive use of dialogue and introspection, in addition to specific behavioral attributes she assigns to her characters.

Introspection can be defined as the “the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes,” the use of which was a fundamental element of the narrative style Rhys adopted for Wide Sargasso Sea. It allowed for the direct depiction of the thoughts and minds of characters, namely Rochester and Antoinette, by providing interchanging narration from their respective perspectives. The inclusion of introspection as a literary element in her narrative style allowed Rhys to present the emotional and mental responses that characters exhibited to various forms of aggression that they confronted. In part one of Wide Sargasso Sea, “The first day [she] had to go to the convent,” Antoinette was targeted by a black girl and a white boy, and their reason to follow her, and subsequently “push [Antoinette] and the books [she] was carrying,” was made clear after the black girl said, “Look the crazy girl, you crazy like your mother.” Accordingly, this particular case of harassment can be traced down to ethnical differences, supplemented by the circulation of stories about the Cosway family that made them prone to alienation by those in their community. Antoinette’s reactions to the physical aggression she confronted were presented in her thoughts; “I collapsed and began to cry (pg. 48),” her mind dictated, an unquestioned admittance to grieving clear evidence of the damage done to her emotional stability. She was reduced to a state through which “[she] could not answer,” after being questioned by Mother St. Justine about her health, which further demonstrated how shock was an outcome of those events. In addition, during a conversation he had with Rochester, Daniel Cosway, the alleged brother of Antoinette, makes a number of remarks, some of which were disguised as personal insults and sexual comments which from a psychological standpoint can be seen as forms of aggressive behavior. He asked Rochester to “Give love to [his] sister- your wife,” instigating anger and frustration in Rochester. Rochester’s reaction to Daniel’s remark was presented through the direct portrayal of his mental processes, which showed that “disgust was rising in [him] like sickness. Disgust and rage.”

Dialogue was an important part of this novel’s narration. Dialogues are a means by which writers allow characters in their texts to vocally express themselves. Jean Rhys’s use of dialogue in this particular novel allowed her characters the ability to present subsequent thoughts and emotions they developed in response to aggression they encountered in a spoken manner. Part two of this novel contains a conversation between Rochester and Antoinette, where Rochester says, “I feel that this place is my enemy and on your side (pg. 117),” in response to claims made by Antoinette, such as her inclination to believe that “[Rochester] has no right to ask questions about [her] mother and then refuse to listen to [her] answer.” Narration from Rochester’s perspective stated that she spoke “fiercely,” suggesting that Antoinette’s conduct must have remained aggressive during this conversation. Hence, the quote by Rochester provided above can be seen as a verbal response to Antoinette’s aggression, depicting how Rochester felt alienated and lost, as if “this place is [his] enemy,” whenever his only true companion in this foreign land turned against him. Soon, Christophine also bombards Rochester, much like Antoinette in the previous example, with claims such as his plot to “break [Antoinette] up,” and reduce her to an insignificant, damaged state by allowing her desires “to make love to [him] till she drunk,” diminish her independence. Unlike his earlier mentioned conversation with Antoinette, Rochester’s lines show no trace of loneliness or vulnerability. In other words, the calm and unworried state of his responses in this dialogue with Christophine suggests that he didn’t care about Christophine opinions on his marriage, and thus remained relatively unaffected by the aggression she presented him with.

In addition to the development of thoughts, which can then be vocally expressed, characters can also respond to aggression through body movement that would connote a specific form of emotion or feeling. Rhys’s assignation of specific behavioral attributes to their respective characters allowed for these characters to present their reactions to aggression through the certain physical actions that would connote a certain emotion or feeling. Tightened fists, quivering lips, fluttering eyelids, are all unobtrusive movements that someone can subconsciously execute and subsequently reveal the condition of their emotional and mental state. Antoinette, after her encounter with the girl and the boy that harassed her in part one of the novel, “pulled, and pulled at the bell (pg. 47)” of Mother St. Justine’s room, with her continuous knocking at the door an indicator of the shocked, hurried, and possibly traumatized state that harassment had put her in. Now, in addition to the purposeful action of pulling at Mother St. Justine’s bell, there were other minor physical behavioral attributes that her body was engaged in, such as her constant crying, the severity of which Rhys presented by writing that Antoinette “[cried] as fast as [Mother St. Justine] sponged [her] face.” The assignation of this temporary attribute to Antoinette’s character in this scenario is evidently trying to depict the burden and stress she was under because of her heritage, in addition to the damage done to her emotional wellbeing by the girl and boy she encountered.

When dealing with aggression in others, it is important to understand what kind of behavior or person makes you feel aggressive, how you should react to that aggression, and how you can control it. The story of Wide Sargasso Sea was built on conflicting cultures, during a time that facilitated aggression from within all classes of society. Aggression, the presentation of which and confrontation with, was inevitable given the chemistry of the characters included in the text, and hence formed an important subject matter of the novel.

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Reactions to aggression in Jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea

July 12, 2019 by Essay Writer

A vast area of the northern Atlantic Ocean houses a breed of seaweed that is addressed by the name sargassam. This portion of the northern Atlantic is known as the Sargasso Sea, notorious among passing sailors onto whose ships it is reputed to enmesh. Upon their meeting, friction is apparent between the surface of a ship’s hull and the skin of a strand of sargassam, as it is between the characters presented in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. The complex post-colonial mentalities of West Indian populations, both native and foreign, and the underlying cultural differences between the two led to the cultivation and display of behavioral and emotional resentment and aggression within this heterogeneous populace. In Wide Sargasso Sea,Jean Rhys’s portrayal of the reactions that characters display to aggression from external sources is achieved through her constructive use of dialogue and introspection, in consonance with the specific and deliberate behavioral attributes she assigns to these characters.

Introspection can be defined as the “the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes,” the use of which was a fundamental element of the narrative style Rhys employed for this literary text. It allowed for an illustration of the thoughts and experiences of two particular characters, namely Rochester and Antoinette, by providing interchanging narration from their respective perspectives. The inclusion of introspection as a literary element in her narrative style allowed Rhys to present the emotional and mental responses that characters the exhibited to various forms of aggression that they confronted. In part one of Wide Sargasso Sea, “The first day [she] had to go to the convent,” Antoinette was targeted by a black girl and a white boy, and their reason to follow her, and subsequently “push [Antoinette] and the books [she] was carrying,” was made clear after the black girl said, “look the crazy girl, you crazy like your mother.” Accordingly, this particular case of harassment can be traced down to ethnical differences, supplemented by the circulation of stories about the Cosway family that made them prone to alienation by those in their community. Antoinette’s reactions to the physical aggression she confronted was displayed by equipping her character with the ability to narrate this experience in the form of an introspective monologue; “I collapsed and began to cry (pg. 48),” her mind dictated, an unquestioned admittance to grieving clear evidence of the damage done to her emotional stability. She was reduced to a state through which “[she] could not answer,” after being questioned by Mother St. Justine about her health, which further reflected the state of that this development put her in. Rochester, on the other hand, experienced a more subtle form of aggression; Daniel Cosway made numerous remarks disguised as personal insults, and with sexual connotations, during a conversation with Rochester, which from a psychological standpoint can argued to be a form of aggressive behavior. He asked Rochester to “Give love to [his] sister- your wife,” which was met with anger and frustration in Rochester; Rochester’s reaction to Daniel’s remark was presented through the direct portrayal of his mental processes, which showed that “disgust was rising in [him] like sickness. Disgust and rage.”

Jean Rhys’s use of dialogue in this text allowed characters the ability to vocalize the thoughts and emotions they developed in response to aggression they encountered. Part two of the novel contains a conversation between Rochester and Antoinette, where Rochester says, “I feel that this place is my enemy and on your side (pg. 117),” in response to claims made by Antoinette, such as her inclination to believe that “[Rochester] has no right to ask questions about [her] mother and then refuse to listen to [her] answer.” Narration from Rochester’s perspective stated that she spoke “fiercely,” suggesting that Antoinette’s conduct must have remained aggressive during this conversation. Hence, the quote by Rochester provided above can be seen as a verbal response to Antoinette’s aggression, depicting how Rochester felt alienated and lost, as if “this place is [his] enemy,” whenever his only true companion in this foreign land turned against him. Soon, Christophine also bombards Rochester, much like Antoinette in the previous example, with claims such as his plot to “break [Antoinette] up,” and reduce her to an insignificant, damaged state by allowing her desires “to make love to [him] till she drunk,” diminish her independence. Unlike his earlier mentioned conversation with Antoinette, Rochester’s lines show no trace of loneliness or vulnerability. In other words, the calm and unworried state of his responses in this dialogue with Christophine suggests that he didn’t care about Christophine opinions on his marriage, and thus remained relatively unaffected by the aggression she presented him with.

In addition to the development of thoughts, which can then be vocally expressed, characters can also respond to aggression through body movement that would connote a specific form of emotion or feeling. Rhys’s assignation of specific behavioral attributes to their respective characters allowed for these characters to present their reactions to aggression through the certain physical actions that would connote a certain emotion or feeling. Tightened fists, quivering lips, fluttering eyelids, are all unobtrusive movements that someone can subconsciously execute and subsequently reveal the condition of their emotional and mental state. Antoinette, after her encounter with the girl and the boy that harassed her in part one of the novel, “pulled, and pulled at the bell (pg. 47)” of Mother St. Justine’s room, with her continuous knocking at the door an indicator of the shocked, hurried, and possibly traumatized state that harassment had put her in. Now, in addition to the purposeful action of pulling at Mother St. Justine’s bell, there were other minor physical behavioral attributes that her body was engaged in, such as her constant crying, the severity of which Rhys presented by writing that Antoinette “[cried] as fast as [Mother St. Justine] sponged [her] face.” The assignation of this temporary attribute to Antoinette’s character in this scenario is evidently trying to depict the burden and stress she was under because of her heritage, in addition to the damage done to her emotional wellbeing by the girl and boy she encountered.

When dealing with aggression in others, it is important to understand what kind of behavior or person makes you feel aggressive, how you should react to that aggression, and how you can control it. The story of Wide Sargasso Sea was built on conflicting cultures, during a time that cultivated class division. Aggression, the presentation of which and confrontation with, was inevitable given the chemistry of the characters included in the text, and hence formed an integral aspect of the text’s exploration of the human psyche.

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Destabilizing the Binary System Through Intertextual Symbolism

June 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea develops an intertextual relationship with Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre by inventing a backstory that can explain the tragic fate of Bertha Mason – the most marginalized character. The oppressive binary system created by the white colonials are not made apparent enough in Jane Eyre. To expose the interlocking systems of oppression that underlie Bronte’s text, Rhys incorporates prominent symbols found in Jane Eyre such as fire and the colour red and cultivates their meaning in her own novel. By cultivating symbols in Jane Eyre, readers are implored to delve further into why Rhys has chosen to extend Bronte’s use of symbols in her meta-text. She enriches those symbols in Wide Sargasso Sea to accomplish a certain goal: bring light to the existence and the effects of the oppressive binary system found in Jane Eyre in order to deconstruct the intelligibility of the binary system as a whole.

While Bronte in Jane Eyre uses symbols to show her protagonist overcoming difficulties and to racially categorize people, Rhys in Wide Sargasso Sea incorporates those same symbols to undermine the intelligibility of the binary system by highlighting its limitations, thus warning readers of the dangers of accepting the dominant binary system set in place by those in power. It is important to understand the notion of binaries and its effects first to see why Rhys might have made them an object of focus through the adopted symbols. Flynn and Leonard in Necessary Fictions claims that binaries convey a hierarchal relation between two terms, and that no person, place, or thing in this world is beyond this ideology (Flynn and Leonard Ch. 4). Since binaries are made by those in power, they act as a vehicle for hegemonic discourse by carrying norms, values, and hierarchies established by those in power (Ch. 4). In addition, binaries influence how subjects see themselves and who they think they are in relation to what is considered right or wrong (Ch. 4). Bertha/Antoinette in the two novels is confined by binaries that carry norms and values counter-intuitive to her culture at home. Due to the conflicts between the ridged European-based binaries and the multi-faceted cultures of the Caribbean, Bertha/Antionette suffer internal conflicts which make it difficult for her to subjugate herself in relation to what is right or wrong.

Oppressive binaries are in both Jane Eyre and in Wide Sargasso Sea, but in the former it is covert, and in the latter, it is prominent. In Jane Eyre, Bertha is utterly oppressed by the binary system, but the novel is worded to make it appear as if it is necessary for her to be locked away in secrecy. The first clear description of Bertha depicted her as a savage animal: “it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal” (Bronte 338). Bertha’s spectators could not tell whether she is a “beast or [a] human being . . . at first sight” (338). All they could tell is that the figure is “covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face” (338). Furthermore, in a conversation Jane had with the locals, he tells her that Bertha “[is] kept in very close confinement” and “people even for some years [are] not absolutely certain of her existence” (491). Looking strictly at the words used, there is no suggestion or thought that this beast of a human has been coerced to become like this. Instead, it is made to seem like Bertha set fire to the hall because she is a “lunatic” and not because she was systematically oppressed by the binary system (492). Jane, the narrator whom the readers view the world through, is blind to the consequences of silencing and imprisoning another individual. Bertha is oppressed because she does not co-exist well with the binary system England enforces.

Rhys exposes the historically and racially biased binaries in the world of Jane Eyre by creating a meta-text with Antoinette/Bertha caught in-between dueling epistemologies, highlighting the prejudices that create those oppressive binaries. Conforming to those oppressive binaries can lead to the degradation of a person. Coco the parrot in Wide Sargasso Sea symbolizes the dangers of binaries. Coco can act as a stand-in for Bertha in Jane Eyre. The parrot had his wings clipped by Mr. Mason and became ill-tempered afterwards as he displayed aggressive behaviour towards other people (Rhys 21). As Antionette’s house was burning down, she saw that “everybody was looking up and pointing at Coco on the glacis railings with his feathers alight. He made an effort to fly down but his clipped wings failed him, and he fell screeching. He was all on fire” (22). Coco directly correlates with Bertha, who in Jane Eyre is described as a “big woman, and had long black hair: [they] could see it streaming against the flames as she stood” on the top of Thornfield Hall (Bronte 493). The people of Thornfield saw a man approach her, but she yelled and jumped off the house, “and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement” (493).

In Jane Eyre, the death of Bertha is unsympathetic as she is simply seen as the escaped lunatic wife. Coco the parrot embodies Bertha’s situation. The systematical oppression using binaries leaves little room for a person like Bertha to prosper. As mentioned above, she does not co-exist well with the binary system the Europeans created since she is a marginalized character; someone who is not exactly fully integrated nor rejected in society due to her culture and race. Rochester clearly values certain traits over others. Being white, passive, and docile is preferred over being colored, assertive, and flamboyant. These named traits are binaries of one another, and having non-preferred traits consequently leads to the loss of respect and privilege. Thus, Coco the parrot falls down helpless and on fire because he was stripped away of the necessities to survive in the world, similar to how Bertha falls to her death in society due to her loss of autonomy and sanity.

After delineating the existence and the effects of the oppressive binary system in Jane Eyre, I will now compare how symbols are used by both Bronte and Rhys. Fire in Jane Eyre symbolizes sexual passion and destruction, both of which Jane must persevere through. Fire’s symbolic meaning can be found in the various instances when a fire starts in Thornfield Hall. A sexual connotation is produced by the first fire Bertha starts: “tongues of flame [that] darted round the bed” (Bronte 174). This use of fire symbolizes the sexual passion that used to envelop the relationship between Rochester and Bertha. Readers can see that the sexual relationship between them was hot, passionate, and centered around the bedroom. Jane must overcome and remove this sexual passion before she can become the sole desire of Rochester. She figuratively overcomes this fiery passion by dousing the flames with a bucket of water (174). Fire also symbolizes destruction in Jane Eyre. The second fire Bertha sets “broke out at the dead of night, and before the engines arrived from Millcote, the building was one mass of flame” (491). It made Thornfield Hall quite a ruin (491). Luckily Jane was away at the time because Bertha “made her way to the chamber that had been the [Jane’s] . . . and she kindled the bed there,” thereby avoiding the dangers that fire brought altogether (492). Fire brings only destruction to Thornfield hall and to Bertha herself. Rochester becomes crippled from the incident and loses most of his fortune and property. This change in fate makes Jane wealthier than Rochester. After Jane overcomes the trouble fire has caused, can she then live happily with Rochester. Those instances of fire are used in direct opposition to Jane. Fire is related to Hell, and that is what stands between Jane from being with Rochester. The removal of fire results in the removal of obstacles for Jane, allowing her to succeed in the end. She informs readers that she has “now been married ten years” and knows “what it is to live entirely for and with what [she] love[s] best on earth” (519). She also thinks of herself as “supremely blest” because her husband’s life is fully hers as she is his and that “no woman was ever nearer to her mate than [she is] . . . [as they] are precisely suited in character” (519). The death of Bertha and Thornfield Hall marks the turning point for Jane because the obstacles between her and a happy life are removed. Thus, the symbolic meaning of fire in Jane Eyre – sexual passion and destruction – is used to oppose Jane, and only when all the fires have been subdued may Jane proceed uncontested.

On the other hand, fire in Wide Sargasso Sea is reworked to symbolize both destruction, and redemption of individuality. Fire thus develops a double entendre which consequently defies the logic of the colonial’s binary system. Fire can symbolize destruction – like in Jane Eyre – as seen when hate for Antoinette’s family grew in Coulibri. This hate compelled the other denizens to set fire to her home. The house burned like tinder and there was nothing her family could do to stop their home from being completely engulfed in flames (Rhys 20). The fire claimed more than just her home, as it claimed the life of her brother and the sanity of her mother: “she was part of Coulibri, that had gone, so she had gone, I was certain of it” (25). However, unlike the static symbolic meaning of fire in Jane Eyre, fire develops a new meaning throughout Rhys’ novel. Fire also holds a certain protective and redeeming feeling for Antoinette. In her vision of setting Thornfield Hall on fire, she sees “a wall of fire protecting [her]” from a ghost-like Jane (122). After she wakes up, she learns at last “why [she] was brought here and what [she has] to do” (122). Her candle flame almost flickered out, but she shields it with her hand and it burns brightly once again, lighting up the dark passage (123). In this instance, fire provides Antoinette a second chance at obtaining her own identity, while also providing her direction. She feels both the destructive nature of fire, and the redemption aspect of it. Hence, the symbolic meanings of fire in Rhys’ novel resists the systematic classification of symbols as fire itself can represent both heaven and hell.

Moreover, the use of the color red as a symbol in Wide Sargasso Sea also deconstructs the system of binaries by suggesting that not everything can be clearly categorized into one or the other as established by those in charge. However, in Bronte’s novel, the color red is used by Rochester as an index for his binary conception of race, which consequently makes Bertha appear as a grotesque monster, placing her on one end of the binary. Any skin color or skin tone other than white is placed on one side of the binary spectrum with white on the other. Antoinette is a Creole, which in her case means a person who descended from the Europeans and has settled in the West Indies. She is neither wholly from either Europe or the West Indies – culturally speaking – as she is openly rejected by both cultures. Rochester values and prefers people like Jane who are racially and culturally white over other people who are not. This is proved when Rochester says to Jane that if she were mad like Bertha, he would still love her regardless (Bronte 347). In Rochester’s mind, Bertha is simply seen as the other colored people and not someone from home, which is why even if Jane became mad just like Bertha is perceived to be, he would still love her. In addition to the color red being used as an index for Rochester’s binary conception of race, it is also used to symbolize hell-like attributes. The notion of heaven and hell are binaries that categorize Jane on the former end, and pitting Bertha in the latter end of the binary. The following example demonstrates how English society in Jane Eyre uses the binary system to oppressively categorize and define people: Rochester compares Bertha to Jane, asking his companions to “look at the difference [and] compare [Jane’s] clear eyes with the red balls yonder – [her] face with [Bertha’s] mask – [her] form with that bulk” (Bronte 339). He continues to comment on how Jane “stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon” (339). Rochester’s comparison uses the color red to symbolize hell, which “establish[es] an organizing contrast between the two mutually exclusive terms” (Flynn and Leonard Ch. 4). By creating contrast, each term obtains “its full meaning in human culture and language” (Ch. 4). The color red in the culture and language that the colonials use defines Bertha/Antionette by categorizing her as demonic, and un-earthly. In the English language, the historical use for anyone who is not racially white would be considered a person of color. Thus, the color red in Jane Eyre is used as symbol to define Bertha’s race, and to refer to hell-like attributes. When the two meanings for the symbol are combined, it subsequently leads to a negative portrayal of a non-white race.

In response to Jane Eyre’s use of the color red, Wide Sargasso Sea undergoes the process of reclamation for the color red to decenter its symbolic intelligibility as an index for binary conceptions of race while also destabilizing the certainty of the binary system. The symbolic use of the color red aims to resist the black and white categorization of people and ideologies that the colonials use and value so much. As mentioned earlier, the binary system carries hegemonic discourse, and with common discourse comes power. Power and control over people comes from being able to classify and assign values to the binaries – the same way scientists devise methods and systems to classify every living species to every type of element on this planet. When something proves to be an exception to their systematic rules, the system loses its intelligibility and must be fixed using exceptions to their methodological rules they created. Similarly, Antoinette is an exception to the rules the binary system created. As Antoinette stood on the roof, she “turned around and saw the sky. It was red and all [her] life was in it” (Rhys 123). Analyzing the words picked by Rhys, she described the entire sky as the color red with Antoinette’s entire life or essence in the color. There is nothing part of that sky or her life that obeys the strict binary classification system as the color red is neither black nor white. It follows that her life resists the classification of binaries which sees everything as either one or the other, leaving no in-between space. The redness of the sky and her life creates a middle-ground between the two binaries, giving space to people who – like her – belong in a binary-less world. The red sky contained things from her childhood: all the colors she has seen, places she has been to, and the tree of life in flames (123). In other words, her childhood was full of people of various cultures. The colonial binary system cannot fully appreciate the variety of cultures that exist in the world, which is why it hastily categorizes every other non-white culture as colored. Doing so keeps the binary system alive and retains power in those who use the binary system in an oppressive manner. Although, as explained above, this way of categorizing people is faulty as it does not do justice to the amount of other people of different backgrounds that also exist. Antoinette challenges the binary system and makes a statement regarding her individuality by firmly engraving her existence – “Antoinette Mason, née Cosway, Mount Calvary Convent, Spanish Town, Jamaica, 1839” – outside of their binary system in “fire red” (29). Hence, the color red that Antoinette describes defies the simple classification system of binaries by emphasizing the disregarded but unique cultures and races that the colonials have simply categorized together.

Thus, the shared intertextual symbols between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea can make readers aware of the oppressive binaries present in texts and in the real world by considering how much of the discourse is influenced in favour of one of the two binaries. In addition, Rhys’ adaptation of fire and the color red as symbols also deconstructs the intelligibility of the binary system by highlighting its limitations. Only by being aware of how binaries can be oppressive to some, can one begin to challenge the system of binaries created by those in power. Bronte’s novel is founded upon interlocking systems of oppression that are subtle but impactful, while Rhys’ novel seems to want to burn the binary system to the ground and replace it with a different system that values both the racialized and the privileged instead.

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