The field known as "Post-Colonial Studies" gained recognition as an academic discipline in the 1960s, the same decade in which Jean Rhys penned Wide Sargasso Sea. Today the novella is regarded as one of the most famous examples to emerge from a revisionist school of literary interpretation known as "post-colonialism." But what exactly does it mean to say that the text is a "post-colonial" revision of Jane Eyre?
In brief, Rhys' work offers a retelling of part of Brontë's novel with specific attention paid to the largely negative effects of European colonization on the culture of the Caribbean. Post-colonial writing attempts to revise or correct often-accepted European-made historical details by providing accounts from the perspective of the colonized peoples - generally repressed minority groups. In this case, Rhys gives voice to the Brontë's Creole madwoman, a character she sympathetically reconfigures as Antoinette. By imagining Antoinette's history before being locked in the attic, the fate to which Brontë consigned her, Rhys simultaneously calls into question the racially pejorative characterization of her literary predecessor and indicts the once-rampant practice of colonialism. In this vein, Antoinette's nameless English husband (Brontë's Rochester) represents the devastatingly powerful colonizer.