Wide Sargasso Sea

The Impossibility of Standing Alone: Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea" in the Context of Bronte's "Jane Eyre"

Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1965, and immediately caught the attention of critics. Its publication helped to save Jean Rhys from the obscurity into which she had fallen after her previous novels, published between the First and Second World Wars, went out of print. Wide Sargasso Sea won Rhys the esteemed W. H. Smith Award and the Heinemann Award, and earned her a place in the literary canon. The novel seeks to recreate the 'true' story of Bertha Mason, the mad Creole wife of Edward Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Rhys explores the complex relationships between the old slaveholding West Indian families, white and black West Indians, and the new English settlers in the post-emancipation Caribbean. Rhys attempts to correct what she viewed as an injustice of Brontë's by telling the story of Bertha Mason (referred to in the majority of Wide Sargasso Sea as Antoinette Cosway). After thoroughly reading Jane Eyre, Rhys writes in her own notes that she "discovered what a fat (and improbable) monster [Bertha Mason] was." She believed that Brontë "took her horrible Bertha from [a] legend [so she has] the right to take lost Antoinette."

Set mainly in Jamaica and Dominica, the country...

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