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Wide Sargasso Sea And Jane Eyre Essay

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Comparing Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys obviously had Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in mind while writing Wide Sargasso Sea. Each novel contains events that echo other events or themes in the other. The destruction of Coulibri at the beginning of Wide Sargasso Sea reminds the reader of the fire at Thornfield towards the end of Jane Eyre. While each scene refers to events in its own book and clarifies events in its companion, one cannot conclude that Rhys simply reconstructed Thornfield's fall in Coulibri's. Though they exhibit some similarities, to directly compare these two scenes without considering their impact on the novels as whole works would be ridiculous. Each scene's main importance, and contribution to the…show more content…

Rhys puts Antoinette, already of weakened mind, into a situation where events occur not as a part of some supernatural plan, as they do for Jane, but instead occur in rapid, unintelligible succession, as if Antoinette is caught in some nightmarish dream from whose whimsical flow she cannot escape.

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

As I mentioned in my preview of Wide Sargasso Sea, this novel by Jean Rhys is written as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre.

Now, here’s a sad admission: I’ve never read Jane Eyre. Can you believe that insanity?

Most of you guys thought that my lameness in not having read Jane Eyre wouldn’t affect my understanding of Wide Sargasso Sea–especially with the stories being written by two different authors. Would it help to know a little more background on these characters? Probably. But a good story is a good story, right?

All that said, and fully admitting that I haven’t read Jane Eyre, I thought I’d do my best to compare the two books today, using my initial thoughts about Wide Sargasso Sea as my guide.

Let’s start with the main character in Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette Cosway—known as Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. In WSS, she’s alive and vibrant—even hopeful—despite the fact she’s lost her mother to craziness, and her youngest brother was killed in a fire set by former slaves.  In Jane Eyre, she lives alone in the attic of Thornfield Hall, and is considered a raving lunatic.

Then there’s her husband, the Englishman, Mr. Rochester. WSS describes how the two meet—arranged—and how, as strangers, they never connect while living together in Dominica in the West Indies. Rochester never learns to trust Antoinnette or the Islanders—who he thinks conspire against him in some kind of voodooish fashion. In Jane Eyre, Rochester of course marries Jane while Bertha becomes the “madwoman in the attic.”

Also of note is the tone of the two novels. Jane is a Christian, which brings Christian overtones throughout Jane Eyre. But Antoinnette is cynical of Christianity and God, repeatedly saying things like “your God” to Mr. Rochester. She definitely has a more antagonistic view of God and faith.

As I’m still working through the novel, that’s all I have for now.

But what are some other similarities/differences between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea?

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