Wide Sargasso Sea

Sexual Vilification of Female Sexual Power: A Comparison of Lolita and Wilde Sargasso Sea 12th Grade

From the witch hunting hysteria of the 17th century, to the biblical belief that all objects touched by a menstruating woman became unclean, female sexuality has been regarded by men with fear and hostility for thousands of years. Accused by Tertulian of being “the gateway to the devil”, women have long been kept under strict regulation, their sexuality often suppressed by patriarchal societies for fear of what might happen should the “uncontrollable nature” of such “untamed creatures”[1] be given free reign. The woman as a result has been viewed, historically, to occupy a place of contradiction in literature, frequently dismissed by male writers as weak and invaluable to their stories, but simultaneously given power over men because of a societal obsession with their sensuality. Despite the vast differences in the setting of the two texts studied here, “Lolita” being a 1940s “road novel”, and “Wide Sargasso Sea” which is set in post-colonial Jamaica, women and girls are portrayed through the eyes of their male counterparts in each novel in strikingly similar ways. Contemporary writers Jean Rhys and Vladimir Nabokov have captured the emotional conflict between desire and disgust felt by male protagonists towards the women they...

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