Examining the passages below, compare and contrast the representations of the heroines choice at the end Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre.

Authors Avatar by ashleighblackniagmailcom (student)

Ashleigh-Jade BlackB9864021TMA 2

Examining the passages below, compare and contrast the representations of the heroine’s choice at the end of the novel. Discuss with reference to Jane Eyre, Volume III, Chapter XII, pp. 448–52 (from ‘Reader I married him’ to the end of the novel) and Wide Sargasso Sea, pp. 121–4 (from ‘I took the red dress down and put it against myself’ to the end of the novel).

     The heroine’s choice at the end of each of the novels, Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, are almost the complete antithesis of one another. While Jane becomes a happily married woman, seemingly finding her place in society, Antoinette become increasingly outcast, eventually leading to her imprisonment, madness and self-destruction.

     There are many ways that the representation of these choices can be analysed as they both rely heavily on the social conventions of the time. Each novel focuses on the idea of a strong female narrative, whose identity does not quite fit with their surroundings. Jane is an observer, struggling to find a place to belong in a society that cannot mould her into an ideal. Correa, in The Nineteenth Century Novel: Realisms, claims that Jane’s story is ‘[...] dominated by the search for a home and ‘family’ to replace those which rejected her at its outset.’ This could be a simple answer as to why at the end of the novel, Jane, who now has a family and her own wealth, decides to marry Mr Rochester in an effort to fully blend into society as a married woman.

     Antoinette, on the other hand, makes a far more radical choice for the end of her story by, supposedly, set the house ablaze before committing suicide. Antoinette is a character who has been repeatedly rejected by everyone in her life; by the West Indies society for being associated with slave owners, by the British for being Creole, by her mother who is driven mad, and finally by her husband, who tries, and fails, to form her into the ‘perfect’ British woman. Many of the choices in Wide Sargasso Sea are not made by Antoinette, all cumulating into her complete loss of control and identity, as she is unable to have power over her own life. Jennifer Bann postulates that Antoinette’s decision at the end of the novel is her last attempt at gaining control; ‘[...] death began to bring freedom: shackles, silence, and regret were cast aside [...]’

     Social conventions and the expectations of women play a heavy role in both novels. During the Victorian era, women were expected to be obedient to men, be beautiful, be educated only in talents (singing, sewing, playing the piano) and be sexually and emotionally repressed. Neither Jane nor Antoinette fit into this convention and so struggle through hardships in their stories; however, their reactions to these stereotypes vary wildly. Jane, while being a rebellious and strong character, does follow some social order in her marriage and religious beliefs, finally appearing to throw away her outcast status. Whereas, Antoinette gradually becomes more of an exile; falling into a state of madness and rebellion to the extent that she is barred from society by Mr Rochester, for fear of scandal. Both the heroines’ choices represent a certain aspect of the society in which they lived; revealing to the reader the struggles of being a woman in the Victorian era.

     In Jane Eyre, Jane is seen as opposing the conventional role of a female, scorning those who are ‘[...] narrow minded [...] to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing piano and embroidering bags.’ (p.130) She constantly battles against those who want to suppress and control her, especially the men in the novel, convinced that she deserves to be of equal standing to them; a radical idea in Bronte’s time. During her time at Thornfield, Jane appears to find her intellectual equal in Rochester and they proceed to fall in love. However, she soon realises, even before the appearance of the mad wife, that she will always be inferior to Rochester, as Mrs Fairfax reminds her; ‘Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses.’ (p.306)

     By the end of the novel, there is a role reversal of sorts, as Jane now has a social status and independence afforded to her by her family and her Uncle’s wealth. She returns to Rochester, only to find that he is now blind and disabled by the fire of Thornfield, and so, in essence, she becomes the more powerful of the couple. Instead of stating that they were married, she tells the reader, ‘[...] I married him [...]’ (p.517), placing the emphasis on her choice. This equality is further reinforced by her narrative towards the end of the final chapter; ‘[...] I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine [...]’ (p.519) revealing a marriage between two equals rather than a superior and inferior.

Join now!

     This equality and female power is not echoed in Wide Sargasso Sea however, as Antoinette’s character is seen as being oppressed and battered by her marriage to Mr Rochester. Antoinette is an outcast in numerous ways and the continual rejection in her life confuses her sense of self and belonging. Whereas Jane seems to have a consistent idea of what she wants to be and sticks to her convictions; Antoinette is expected to be everything and nothing at the same time. She is outcast from the society in the West Indies as she is a Creole and her ...

This is a preview of the whole essay