Where the Red Fern Grows

Mirrors and Madness in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea College

Poscolonial narratives and rewritings attempt to deal with minority responses by recovering their untold stories as a result of European colonization (Reavis). This literature addresses the problems and consequences of the decolonization of a country and individual responses to issues of imperialism and racialism. Jean Rhys takes on the task of giving a voice to historically silenced characters in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a precursor story to Bronte’s Jane Eyre from the perspective of Mr. Rochester’s mad and seemingly bestial wife Bertha Mason, whose given name is revealed to be Antoinette Cosway. Throughout the novel Rhys employs various symbols to convey the concept of “the other” along with themes of social and cultural identity, entrapment, and ecocriticism to reflect the psyches and experiences of the characters. Rhys uses the concept of mirrors in particular throughout Wide Sargasso Sea to symbolize Antoinette’s double identity, madness, and ultimately deteriorated selfhood under a system of patriarchal oppression.

Mirrors initially play a large part in Antoinette’s chaotic childhood to convey her double identity and fluidity between social groups. In a pivotal scene when the Jamaican natives siege Antoinette’s home...

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