Jane Eyre

Examining Femininity in "Wide Sargasso Sea"

As the cult of domesticity grew during the nineteenth century, society began to fixate on the proper role of a woman. Jean Rhys examines the contradictions and consequences involved in setting such standards through documenting the decline of Jane Eyre’s “madwoman,” Antoinette Cosway. Forever the victim of alien ideals, Antoinette struggles to reconcile her exotic, passionate behavior with the pristine reserve valued by the European world. Yet, although convention discouraged sexuality, Rochester lusts after the Caribbean women, further aggravating Antoinette’s moral confusion. Ultimately, Rochester fears Antoinette’s explosive passion and eradicates it through suppressing her exotic heritage. Rhys creates a world of cultural tension in which Antoinette fails to resemble either the quintessential Caribbean or European woman.

The females in Antoinette’s life promoted several disparate lifestyles, crippling Antoinette’s ability to develop as a woman. Christophine epitomizes one facet of the Caribbean woman; single and independent, she believes that a dependency on men leads only to heartache and danger. Christophine detests the man assumed to be Rochester, and advises Antoinette, “Woman must have spunks to live in this wicked...

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