Jane Eyre

Destabilizing the Binary System Through Intertextual Symbolism College

Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea develops an intertextual relationship with Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre by inventing a backstory that can explain the tragic fate of Bertha Mason – the most marginalized character. The oppressive binary system created by the white colonials are not made apparent enough in Jane Eyre. To expose the interlocking systems of oppression that underlie Bronte’s text, Rhys incorporates prominent symbols found in Jane Eyre such as fire and the colour red and cultivates their meaning in her own novel. By cultivating symbols in Jane Eyre, readers are implored to delve further into why Rhys has chosen to extend Bronte’s use of symbols in her meta-text. She enriches those symbols in Wide Sargasso Sea to accomplish a certain goal: bring light to the existence and the effects of the oppressive binary system found in Jane Eyre in order to deconstruct the intelligibility of the binary system as a whole.

While Bronte in Jane Eyre uses symbols to show her protagonist overcoming difficulties and to racially categorize people, Rhys in Wide Sargasso Sea incorporates those same symbols to undermine the intelligibility of the binary system by highlighting its limitations, thus warning readers of the dangers of...

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