Compare the Relationship of Mothers and Daughters in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


The relationship of mothers and their daughters has been brought out in many literary works by many authors. Feminist themes have been popular with authors because they are of high demand and they talk about the issues that affect women and try to bring these issues to the people concerned. Jean Rhys and Charlotte Bronte are among the many authors that have brought out a feminist theme in their books.

They have brought about the nature of the relationship between mothers and their daughters, the challenges that they go through and how they overcome these challenges. The two works by the authors are related in that one work is the rewrite of another or almost the duplicate of another and therefore almost all the themes are the same in both books


This paper critically examines the nature of the relationship between women and their daughters in the works of Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea and the works of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre. It compares the relationships in the two books and brings out the similarities and the differences. It also examines the way the two authors have brought out the mother characters and the daughter characters

About the authors

Jean Rhys is an author from the 20th century who was born in Dominica. Her birth name was Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams. She schooled in a convent school and later on in a girls school in England. She was criticized in the girls’ school and that could have formed the basis of the feminist themes in her works.

She moved quit a lot in different towns and cities and had a lot of struggles especially after her dad died. She had trouble getting her first novel published and therefore she had to pause nude for a Britain based novelist to get funds to publish her novel. Jean started her writing career by writing short stories under the supervision of an English writer called Ford Madox Ford. Ford stated that her viewpoint and her themes were fueled by her outsider status. Jean wrote many novels with feminist views and themes

Charlotte Bronte was born of an Irishman called Patrick Bronte. She was from a big family of six children where two elder ones died early. The remaining four were home schooled and therefore they developed a strong bond with each other. This bond led them to engage in artistic works together which included poetry, tales and a lot of fantasy stories.

Charlottes writing career started almost immediately after her mother died and it was fueled by her two sisters because they mostly used to write together. After their aunt died, they had finished their first novels. Charlotte’s first novel which was called professor was not published. Her first novel to be published was Jane Eyre which she wrote immediately after her first novel.

Jane Eyre was the breakthrough of Charlotte’s writing career because it was very successful and got so much attention from publishers and the literary community. Charlotte’s works was not only admired but also criticized. Many people criticized her of being very emotional and full of anger.

Her themes were also very feminist and she was applauded for her ability to bring out the female protagonists in her books. She was also recognized for her ability to bring out the human nature of their characters. This made her different and unique from other novelists and authors because they lacked the human aspect or humanism in their characters

Comparison of the relationship between mothers and their daughters in the novels

Plasa states that there are a lot of similarities between the two novels that compare the relationship between mothers and daughters in both of them which is portrayed in the theme feminine protagonist (Plasa 21). Both authors portray both characters as young women who go through a lot of struggles in their life from a troubled childhood to a troubled life and marriage.

They both were raised from religious backgrounds and they have both experienced criticism and have been looked down upon by the richer and better off people. The difference between these novels is that Antoinette character is more emotional, has gone through more stressing experiences and is less mentally stable than the Jane character

Both authors have written about two young women who lived with a lot of struggles in their early life in harsh environments. This is one striking similarity of the novels.

Jane Eyre is a novel that describes the life of a young girl called Jane and describes the stages that she goes through in her life from her childhood at Gates head where her aunt and cousins mistreat her physically and emotionally, her education, her social life and her career. It describes the early years of Jane and all the struggles that she goes through as a child until she becomes of age. Charlotte states that Jane is orphaned at an early age and she goes to live with her harsh aunt who mistreats her. (Chapter 1. pg. 8)

She is then sent to lowood institution which is very strict but with better treatment than her aunt. While at this institution, she makes friends who immensely influence her personality and her character. Jean states that Jane spends more than eight years at lowood and therefore having enough influence that enables her to be the governess of the area.

Jane starts to experience even more trouble and suffering in her older years after the death of her aunt. She experiences a lot of misfortunes with her love life and also with her career but she finally settles down with Rochester with whom she gives birth a baby boy and they live happily until her death. The main themes in this novel are female protagonist, gothic imagery and religion and morality. The feminist theme has however been brought out more in the novel

Wide Sargasso Sea is a novel about a young heiress who has had an unhappy marriage in the Caribbean which makes her to relocate to England. The novel is mostly about the female protagonist called Antoinette who brings out her story from her childhood to her marriage to Mr. Rochester which was an arranged marriage.

This novel is written in three stages that is the childhood of Antoinette in Jamaica where she also describes her mother’s mental instability. The other part revolves around the marriage of Antoinette in Jamaica. This part also describes the causes of the downfall of Antoinette and the unhappiness of her marriage. This part makes the bulk of the novel because many activities and events occur in this part. The last part is a short part and it describes the last years of Antoinette’s life in Rochester’s mansion

The relationship between mothers and daughters in the two novels is shown in the feminist protagonists and the feminist themes in the two novels. Womanhood in Wide Sargasso Sea is related to issues of slavery and those of mental instability. Feminism is shown clearly in the character of Antoinette when she went to the convent school. The friends that she makes in the convent school that is Miss Germaine and Helene portray the feminist values that Antoinette adopts for example she learns what beauty and chastity is.

In this book, the independence of women characters both legally and financially depends on men within them. Antoinette’s mother sees the death of her husband as a second chance to start a new and get away from all the struggles that she has been through. Charlotte Bronte has also portrayed a Feminine protagonist in the novel Jane Eyre.

Female protagonist is shown through Antoinette by her romantic and passionate side which makes her more mature than the other children in her age. This can be shown in the novel where she says “each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever proudly interesting” (Charlotte 1, pg. 7).

Female protagonist is also shown when Jane admits that she is so attached to Helen and that she loves her and needs her. These words show the passion in her. This is shown in the novel where she says “No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough; if others don’t love me, I would rather die than live… I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.” (Charlotte 8, pg. 60) There are various other ways that the female protagonist has been brought out in the novel

The novel Wide Sargasso Sea was an attempt to rewrite the story of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. They therefore have almost the same themes and the character Jane is almost similar to the character Antoinette. Both characters in this novel grew up in an environment with limited Love.

However Jane is able to find herself and be a woman of her own identity, Antoinette still struggles to find her real self and who she really is. The gender differences are brought out in Wide Sargasso Sea as women are shown to be going through financial constraints because of the dominance of men.

Both authors show the sufferings that women go through in a society that is dominated by men. Antoinette’s mother rejects Antoinette because of her vulnerability to the discrimination that she goes through in her relationship and she thinks that Antoinette has a second chance to start again when her first husband dies. This poor relationship between Antoinette and her mother makes her so distrustful of people around her and makes her more emotionally unstable.

Both novels have feminist themes although the approaches taken by the authors are different for example in Wide Sargasso Sea, Jane has an idea of the place of women in the society and what they deserve while Antoinette does not have any idea of what a woman is in the society and she has no idea of the actions to take to change all the discriminations that occur in her life.

Jane also has quite a stable relationship with her mother even though her mother dies at an early age. Jean states that Antoinette had a poor relationship with her mother because of the difference in their beliefs and in what they want. (Part 2, 25-30)Antoinette is therefore practically lost in life and she cannot be happy and find peace and a sense of belonging like Jane does.

Wide Sargasso Sea although written almost in the same time as Jane Eyre, it brings out the female protagonist in a modern way and therefore brings out the conceptions of a modern women despite the same experiences as those of the female protagonist in Jane Eyre. Modern feminism can be said to be infused in the older feminism of the works of Charlotte.

Charlotte writes that in Jane’s world, women are seen to be under strict circumstances and they cannot therefore participate in the society as men can while in Antoinette’s world this restriction and repression is not there and women are a bit freer. Rhys therefore tries to show ways of dealing with the oppressions that women go through in a different and newer style and voice and even the structure of narration.

In the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, it is hard to determine what type of mother that Antoinette will be because of the many repressions both emotionally and physically that she is exposed to from her husband and by the lack of exposure of her identity which is caused by the experiences that she went through and the lack of happiness that existed in her life

Jean Rhys also depicts lack of faith in women to stop the oppressions that they are going through. She states that a woman cannot be successful in finding peace and equality. (Part 2, 103-104) In Jane Eyre, Jane is brought out as being mature and more developed that she has the resources to defend herself from all the oppressions that she experiences. Antoinette on the other hand cannot defend herself because she has not found herself and her identity and she cannot protect herself.

Both characters are distressed by their experiences and the oppressions that they undergo. Jane approaches these issues in a more loving and old way while Antoinette approaches these issues in a more diverse and contemporary way. In Jane Eyre, the author depicts that women can achieve their goals despite the struggles that they have to go through for example Jane gets what she wants in the end and she is finally happy despite all the struggles that she goes through


These two novels therefore show that women go through a lot of struggle but their success will depend with the setting that these women are in and their beliefs and the approaches that they take to solve these problems. The feminist themes however have been inspired by the backgrounds of the two authors, their experiences in life and how they dealt with the problems that they had. It was also inspired by the kind of friends that they had

Works Cited

Charlotte, B. Jane Eyre-Signet Classic. New York: Penguin Books USA. 1982

Rhys, J. Wide Sargasso Sea: Jean Rhys- Introduction. England: A. Deutch Publishers. 1966

Plasa, C. Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Macmillan publishers. 2001

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