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Submitted Literature

Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys

Review

Inspired by the haunting Bronte tale Jane Eyre, Rhys creates an eerie and startling tale of colonialism, misogyny and madness. Bronte’s Bertha Mason, the infamous madwoman in the attic, becomes Rhys’ Antoinette Cosway who marries Mr Rochester. The oppression of the patriarchal society in which Antoinette is constrained, rumours about her childhood and heritage, cultural displacement and erasure, and finally the loss of her name and personal identity lead Antoinette to madness. The narrative is alternately told by Antoinette and Rochester, giving insights into both the inside and outside of madness.

Furthermore, cultural interpretations of events – such as the appearance and fear of Obeah / witchcraft / enchantment – give both Creole and Western versions, adding to notions of duality in the text.

Notions of inheritance of madness and the stigma of having a mad relative is also played out through the story of Antoinette’s mother’s own losses.

This text is now a classic in both feminist and postcolonial literature.  

Key Themes:

  • Cultural Psychiatry
  • Diversity and Ethnicity
  • Psychosis

Significant Quotes / Pages

101 – “ ‘And her mother was mad. Another lie?’

Christophine did not answer me at once. When she did her voice was not so calm.

‘They drive her to it. When she lose her son she lose herself for a while and they shut her away.  They tell her she is mad, they act like she is mad. Question, question. But no kind words, no friends, and her husban’ he go off, he leave her. They won’t let me see her. I try, but no. They won’t let Antoinette see her. In the end – mad I don’t know – she give up, she care for nothing. That man who is in charge of her he take her whenever he want and his woman talk. That man, and others. Then they have her. Ah there is no God.’”

 

106 – “Pity. Is there none for me? Tied to a lunatic for life – a drunken lying lunatic – gone her mother’s way.”

 

110 – “(That girl she look you straight in the eye and talk sweet talk – and it’s lies she tell you. Lies. Her mother was so. They say she worse than her mother.)

...If I was bound for hell let it be hell. No more false heavens. No more damned magic. You hate me and I hate you. We’ll see who hates best. But first, forst I will destroy your hatred. Now. My hate is colder, stronger, and you’ll have no hate to warm yourself. You’ll have nothing.

I did it too. I saw the hate go out of her eyes. I forced it out. And with the hate her beauty. She was only a ghost. A ghost in the grey daylight. Nothing left but hopelessness. Say die and I will die. Say die and watch me die.

She lifted her eyes. Blank lovely eyes. Mad eyes. A mad girl. I don’t know what I would have said or done. In the balance – everything.”

124 – “I was outside holding my candle. Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do. There must have been a draught for flame flickered and I thought it was out. But I shielded it with my hand and it burned up again to light me along the dark passage.”

Reference: Jean, Rhys. 1966. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Penguin, 2000

Reviewer

- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 21st September 2009