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There is always another side, always(TM) How does Jean Rhys demonstrate her understanding of this idea in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea?

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Introduction

'There is always another side, always' How does Jean Rhys demonstrate her understanding of this idea in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea? The main intention of Rhys' 'write-back' was to give Bront�'s 'mad woman in the attic' a voice. On the behalf of all voices from the margins, Rhys, she felt a personal injustice was made in the creating of a figure in Jane Eyre that would be seen as mad and repulsive, and would represent to the nineteenth Century English reader a stereotype of the West Indies and the people who lived there. In a letter to Francis Wyndham that she explained that she was 'vexed at her (Bront�) portrait of the "paper tiger" lunatic, the wrong Creole scenes and above all the real cruelty of Mr Rochester...' she felt that Jane Eyre had only included '...one side-the English side...' In an attempt to create 'the other side' Rhys humanises Bertha by dubbing her 'Antoinette' to contrast the heavy and ugly name she is latter given in Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre. Rhys essentially creates the world and the background from which Antoinette is supposed to come, and re-defines Rochester as a young man, vulnerable and less powerful than he is in Jane Eyre. ...read more.

Middle

Rhys uses this to explain how Rochester manages to become both repulsed by and to desire Antoinette so deeply -'... I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness.' His hatred for the landscape, the culture and Antoinette stem from his inability to communicate with it and above all not wanting to be drawn into something he truly fears- 'She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.' This raises connotations of Obeah and witchcraft and the notion that English women were never like this, that they would be quiet and docile and the mere notion that women would ever find sex appealing or enjoyable was completely unfounded in English culture, nevermind Rochester's inexperience with women in general. This idea would have been truly terrifying in nineteenth Century England. Furthermore there is a tangled relationship between dreams and reality. Antoinette feels that England must be a 'cold dark dream' that the West Indies is the only place she knows. ...read more.

Conclusion

Rhys breaks 'Bertha' out of the confines of the attic and develops her character to create a more meaningful and just version of 'Bertha Mason's life' so that she can then be a more significant and organic character sacrifice and equally celebrates her, rather than a symbol of dissipation she was depicted in Jane Eyre. Rochester is also revised and depicted as a more vulnerable and na�ve younger man than his 'larger than life' romantic hero persona in Jane Eyre; making it easier for readers to believe and understand his character but also easier to sympathise with him; his relations with his father and brother and his position as a younger son and his feelings of betrayal all amount to the cruel yet justified act of containing a 'loose Caribbean woman' in a secluded English manor house. Footnotes: 1 Michael Thorpe, "The Other Side: Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre"-Norton Critical Anthology, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, ed by Judith Raiskin, WW Norton & Company, New York 1999, Page 173 2Letter from Jean Rhys to Francis Wyndham, Norton Anthology Page 139 3Letter from Jean Rhys to Diana Athill, Norton Anthology Page 144 4Letters from Jean Rhys to Maryvonne Moerman November 1949 Norton Anthology Page 131 ?? ?? ?? ?? Michelle Jones 12VIT ...read more.

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