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Narrative Structures in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys are seminal works highlighting the life of women. Jane Eyre preceded Jean Rhys’s novel by a few centuries. The books originated from diverse impacts of writing. They, however, share a deep connection. They explore the theme of racial identity and social class with a strong desire to be accepted. The two books highlight post-colonialism by bringing out the ways of living of the people after colonialism. They also depict women’s diversity in the world by proposing altered methods of dealing with issues affecting people by replacing earlier patriarchal forms with a system of fairness and equality. The authors also utilize symbolism in their writing. Overall, the books aim to highlight women’s issues through poetry and short stories and utilize themes like symbolism, post-colonialism, patriarchy, and feminism that contributed to the placement and view of women in society.

In the story by Rhys, the focus is shifted on Jane by demonstrating the views of the different elements in the source material, therefore assuming a different approach in structure to the first person narration used in Jane Eyre. The book of Bronte was written in many narrations, offering Bertha a voice. Although he remains anonymous in the Wide Sargasso Sea, Rochester is the main character driving the narrative in the second part, and Grace Poole assumes the main character in the third part (Taylor, et al. p, 480). The story told by Rhys is viewed as repaying the previous work by Bronte for failing to offer Bertha a say by disallowing Jane one, although she doesn’t make an appearance in the narration. As Bertha is included in the narrative by Rhys, Antoinette says that there exists another side, which will be a significant theme throughout both narrations. Rochester’s foresight is a case of an essential theme in Jane Eyre, where the elements of suspicion and supernaturalism repeatedly appear in the texts. Jane and Edward have firm beliefs in what they see, from the natural environment and visions. The surname to Jane that is Eyre references the house’s name in history where a woman possessed by madness resided. Still, Bronte also wanted it to mean being a free spirit, and for sure, Jane experienced a frightening episode. She envisions herself being a free-spirited personality in the Red Room mirror at Gateshead, where she draws some comfort.

The Wide Sargasso Sea is the intent of portraying concepts of gender as problematic through poetry. White men control the imperial world. While Jane faces exclusion, the consequence for Antoinette is the establishment of forceful reliance on a world that has led to her being excluded (Jean p, 53). Antoinette fairy tale embodies a modernistic view on the problems that the female gender has undergone; the feeling of being nothing that she experiences is more significant than the brutal anguish that Jane goes through, meaning she can deal with it even battle with it. For Antoinette, she views happiness as not being authentic, and it even brings her fear. The portrayal of the two characters’ lives influences how we interpret the novels and their conception of womanhood.

The suffering of the two women configures the novels in their relationship with culture. Rhys answers this by dramatizing feminism, where culture involves the domination by white men who unleash oppression on other subjects like females and those who used to be slaves (Felaco and Parola p, 32). In the narratives, being female requires one to deal with suffering as a result of male dominance. Antoinette’s mum deals with these consequences poorly. One can say she does not deal with them entirely, and the unaddressed strain in relations with Antoinette exposes her daughter to a state of mistrust and instability. The parental indifference and failures in relations coincide with colonization’s end, which fails to establish a clear society with a center and definition. The dramatization and storytelling in both novels show how the two females relate to their respective cultures.

The feminism narrative is highlighted in both novels, although they both approach the issue from different angles. Jane has an unshaken belief of what the female gender deserves and how it can be realized. She already has a clear image of her role in society; Antoinette, however, is not sure of where to start in yearning for change or assertion of herself (De Villiers p, 50). In her novel, Rhys weighs that gender differences cannot be changed. To her, maybe they are too hard-wired that Antoinette can never attain any assurance of security and contentment that Jane discovers. Rhys’s novel demonstrates the female gender-changing position in society during the twentieth century. Rhys’ modern concerns depict a woman existing in the same period as Jane and going through the same problems. Therefore, it represents a contemporary visualization of women. Both novels contain narratives of feminism when viewing the history and social conceptualization of women. However, Rhys’s narrative focuses more on feminism after modernity, which involves the complex issue of gender interactions. The narration on feminism is done in the first person to show its importance to the characters.

Throughout the novel’s setting, Jane and Antoinette differ on how they deal with their gender through their religious and spiritual ideals. In her childhood, Jane had less faith in God’s existence. Jane questioned her friend Hellen, who happened to be very religious (Jean p, 102). As Jane matured into adulthood, she believed more, and her conviction in God became strong. When she isn’t sure about her preferred choice in accompanying St John on a mission to India versus staying in England, she turns to God for guidance. She is deeply devoted by constantly drawing her belief in God, and she has a belief of discovering herself as compared to service on others and God. The story illustrates a narrative of spirituality and myths when Jane reunites with Rochester. Like Jane, Antoinette finds it challenging to believe in religion when compounded with the loss of someone close. She doesn’t feel her mother’s loss because she has always mourned their dysfunctional relationship, which is an aspect of foreshadowing. Unlike Jane, the death that people acknowledge significantly is Antoinette’s, but not death by which Christians believe that the soul ascends to heaven. For Antoinette, the belief or not believing in God isn’t relevant because no amount of faith can alter her circumstances. In this narrative of religion and spirituality, Jane’s disbelief in God is a mixture of myths and fairy tales. At the same time, Antoinette’s action of not mourning her mother shows foreshadowing of the death.

Rhys drives the narrative of the absence of faith for a female ability to rise above the oppression of her gender. Jane is direct and clear and even addresses the reader, while Antoinette would not summon enough courage to summon her readers’. The suffering that Antoinette encounters is unclear compared to what Jane undergoes. It’s almost impossible for Antoinette to highlight it. Still, she has problems identifying it because she does not know what would bring her happiness for lacking a slight sense of self. The Wide Sargasso Sea portrays the almost impossible task of succeeding males in the patriarchal world, showing a difference in feminism (Jean p, 72). Whereas Jane has formulated many mechanisms and defenses to overcome her oppression, Antoinette does not have these defenses. It’s rare for her to protect herself. For instance, she goes to her mum with love, but her mum shows her rejection. Antoinette experiences the same encounter with Rochester. She is aware that he doesn’t love her but only asks him to answer in the negative.

Like Bronte’s voice in Jane Eyre tells us how we assume reality and our ability to absorb it in which readers of the 19th century believed, so does Rhys’s voice explain what people were expectant about in the 20th century. Through variations in tone and language, the attitude of Rochester is blighted in a way engulfed in mystery, and Jane is forced to counter this mysterious atmosphere while assuming that she will find the answers to the spooky atmosphere (Haliloğlu p, 117). In Antoinette’s similar blight atmosphere, a straight form of assault is impossible because of the magnitude of the political situation is denied, and someone possessing the nervousness of Antoinette’s childhood can’t fail to respond to the nuances of reason and the atrocities that the older people don’t seem to comprehend. In the events that presided after the estate got burnt, she has to continue living in her destroyed atmosphere like it is okay. In a setting that lacks definition, fear automatically takes over, encouraged by stimulation. Rhys uses his fine language to communicate the reason for the anxiety. In Bronte’s imagination, all things of importance are related to one another in the world that God has good intentions. Antoinette’s experiences show that nothing is predictable in relations and emotions like the fear that may come from nowhere, including places no one anticipates.

The two novels are similar, just like they are different. They purpose to tell the same story, highlighting women’s issues in different settings and times through different forms and themes. Jane Eyre mostly focuses on narration through short stories, while the Wide Sargasso Sea is engraved in poetry. Both utilize dramatization in their storytelling through myths, fairy tales, and first-person narration. The stories are similar in their utilization of symbolism in driving their narratives. In the novels, our knowledge and understanding of the characters and different themes are enhanced by portraying women and their issues in narrative elements. The problems are highlighted in other times in history, although they are almost similar. The narratives have showcased the literary works of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. After discussing the plot and story, I have shown comparisons on different histories and ideologies that help explain the characters and major themes. Although the books tell of the same ideas, there are vast differences in the characters. Antoinette from Rhys shows weakness, losing to the male gender, and being easily manipulated. Jane Eyre is described as an epitome of strength in the female gender by making her own decisions and having her say in matters of personal interest. The two characters are the antithesis of their times as Jane is a character from Victorian England who is supposed to be weak and easily manipulated but is solid and independent. At the same time, Antoinette, created in the 21st century, is shown as an invalid character found in Victorian England. Both books do well in highlighting gender issues through the history of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Works Cited

Charlotte, B. Jane Eyre. Signet Classic, Penguin Books USA Inc. New York, 1982. pp. 1-461.

De Villiers, Stephanie. “Remembering the Future: The Temporal Relationship between Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.” Journal of Literary Studies, vol. 34, no. 4, 2018, pp. 48-61.

Felaco, Cristiano, and Anna Parola. “Studying Narrative Flows by Text Analysis and Network Text Analysis.” Studies in Classification, Data Analysis, and Knowledge Organization, 2020, pp. 29-40

Haliloğlu, Nagihan. “Replacement and genealogy in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.” On Replacement, 2018, pp. 113-122.

Jean, R. Wide Sargasso Sea. Ed. A Norton Critical Edition. Judith L. Raiskin. New York: W. W. Norton & Company., 1999. pp. 1-189

Taylor, Christa L., et al. “Measuring Creative Writing with the Storyboard Task: The Role of Effort and Story Length.” The Journal of Creative Behavior, vol. 55, no. 2, 2020, pp. 476-488


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