Wide Sargasso Sea

“She is Creole girl, and she have the sun in her”: Deconstructing and Identifying the Mad Woman in the Attic College

According to Jean Rhys, “The Creole in Charlotte Bronte’s novel is a lay figure—repulsive which does not matter, and not once alive, which does” (Kimmey 113). In Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, the Creole character and Rochester’s deranged wife, Bertha Mason, is described as “purple face[d]” (Bronte 342), a “demon” (Bronte 351), and a “clothed hyena” standing on “its hind feet” (342). Additionally, Bertha is described by Rochester to have a “mask” instead of a face, “red balls” for eyes, and a body of “bulk” in comparison to innocent Jane Eyre’s humanly “form” (Bronte 343). While Bronte depicts her Creole woman character solely as a ravenous madwoman at “the mouth of hell”, Rhys chooses to take Bertha Mason out of the confinements of the attic of Thornfield Hall and depict her as an individual with a background, a narrative, and, most importantly, a life (Bronte 343). Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea deconstructs the stigma that is associated with Bronte’s Bertha Mason and shows another side to Rochester’s mad wife through the character of Antoinette, a girl who descends into madness because of her life-long isolation and destructive marriage to the Rochester figure. As a response to the demon-like and “not once alive” Creole character that...

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