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What aspects of Charlotte Bronte's depiction and use of the character of Bertha Mason are most clearly illuminated by Jean Rhys' depiction and use of her parallel character of Antoinette?

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Introduction

What aspects of Charlotte Bronte's depiction and use of the character of Bertha Mason are most clearly illuminated by Jean Rhys' depiction and use of her parallel character of Antoinette? In Wide Sargasso Sea, written by Jean Rhys in the 1960's, is a radical critique of the context of English Imperialism and male dominated society within which Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre. In order to both expose and oppose the parallels inherent in Jane Eyre, Rhys intertwines in her novel the two reading positions of feminist and postcolonialist criticism. Rhys demonstrates how both social and narrative conventions mandate that certain categories of women must be devalued if other categories of women are to assume importance. She does this by exposing to the reader how Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, in order for her reader to give Jane an assumed importance, devalued by the Creole character Bertha; showing her to be made and giving us Jane's description of her as "[she] seemed...a woman... ...read more.

Middle

Rhys was convinced in the writing of her book that Bertha "must be at least plausible with a past, the reason why Mr Rochester treats her so abominably and feels justified, the reason why he thinks she is mad and why of course she goes mad". Antoinette's husband in Rhys' novel, although he is the narrator for the largest section of the novel, remains to the reader unnamed. Rhys has cleverly used this strategy so that the character (in the reader's eyes) becomes merely a representative of England itself and takes away any personal characteristics to which the reader may feel sympathy for. Also through using him as a narrator, we can see the otherness of the West Indian culture from the English Imperialist culture. The technique also further highlights of one of the key points Rhys was demonstrating in her story, that there is always another side to any story. Rhys explicitly demonstrates to the reader through Antoinette, who tells her husband (regarding Daniel Cosway's letter to him) ...read more.

Conclusion

as an act of mere cruelty and once again, a way in which British Imperialism held power over other cultures. The women in Wide Sargasso Sea are not silent or passive characters. They all have their opinions which they are willing to express and put forward quite assertively. Christophine in particular, is not afraid to tell Antoinette's husband exactly how she feels towards him/ On page 132 for example, Christophine says 'I tell her so'...always it don't work for beke. Always it bring trouble...so you send me away and you keep all her money. And what you do with her?" and later on further exposes and questions assumptions and values that Antoinette's husband when she tells him "Read and write I don't know. Other things I know." So we can see the many ways in which Rhys uses the intersections of feminist and postcolonialist reading positions and criticism to expose certain aspects of character. Whether it be through two narrators, leaving one unnamed, showing many different sides to a story and emphasising and exposing the otherness of each are amongst many other narrative strategies. ...read more.

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