Essay Colonising Within the Marriage in Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea

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Colonising Within the Marriage in Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys' complex text, Wide Sargasso Sea, came about as an attempt to re-invent an identity for Rochester's mad wife, Bertha Mason, in Jane Eyre, as Rhys felt that Bronte had totally misrepresented Creole women and the West Indies: 'why should she think Creole women are lunatics and all that? What a shame to make Rochester's wife, Bertha, the awful madwoman, and I immediately thought I'd write a story as it might really have been.' (Jean Rhys: the West Indian Novels, p144). It is clear that Rhys wanted to reclaim a voice and a subjectivity for Bertha, the silenced Creole, and to subvert the assumptions made by the Victorian text. She does so with startling results.
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Nobody want you' (WSS 9).

Though this is a childish taunt in the novel, the truth of it is that nobody does want Antoinette; as Teresa O'Connor points out, not even her own mother: 'Antoinette is also alienated from the meagre remains of her family itself, and, most specifically, from her mother's love' (Jean Rhys: the West Indian Novels, 172).

The second part of the novel marks the beginning of the marriage between Antoinette and the English gentleman (normally identified as Rochester from Jane Eyre; he will be referred to as such for the remainder of the essay). The Marriage contract itself, interestingly, is negotiated and put into action by a series of men: Rochester's father and brother, Antoinette's stepfather and, subsequently, her step-brother, Richard Mason. When Antoinette herself puts up a half-hearted resistance to the marriage, both Rochester and Richard Mason step in to push the contract along. Already, Rhys, within the marriage, establishes action as a male characteristic and inertia as female.

As the narrative moves into part II, Rochester takes over from Antoinette as narrator. Also, the feelings of displacement and problems of identity are shifted onto him. Rochester, at Granbois, experiences a complete lack of power normally exercised by the English gentleman, at once having to deal with the strange otherness of the West Indies and cope with the rejection by his father and brother. According
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