Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre: Challenging the Canon College

Wide Sargasso Sea uses the erasure of Antoinette’s story from Jane Eyre to challenge a canon which is misrepresentative of British colonialism. However, Wide Sargasso Sea “does not adopt the adversarial strategy of dehumanizing Rochester” (Thieme 78). Rather, Rochester is also presented as a victim and in contrast to Jane Eyre’s authorial commentary, Wide Sargasso Sea presents both sides of the cultural divide. Through dividing the narrative between Antoinette and Rochester’s perspectives, Wide Sargasso Sea becomes a narrative about narrative and how a single perspective narrative precludes another. The misappropriation of the cultural other in Jane Eyre becomes a metaphor for the preclusion of alternative narratives from the traditional canon. Yet, Wide Sargasso Sea is dependent on Jane Eyre as an intertextual referent, simultaneously challenging and reinforcing its canonical status.

The concept of a canon of English Literature began in British ruled India as a form of colonial oppression. The 1835 English Education Act introduced the academic discipline of English Literature to India as a “civilising force” (Eaglestone 11). Through works such as Mathew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy and Francis Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of...

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