Why is Mr. Rochester never explicitly named?

Although readers can infer that the male narrative voice in the novel belongs to Charlotte Brontë’s character Mr. Rochester, Rhys never explicitly names him as such. This choice adds to the large and imposing nature of his character, one which emphasizes his identity as the oppressor in his relationship with Antoinette. The lack of a name also contributes to the idea that he represents all men, or at least those who benefit from colonial and patriarchal power structures. 

How does Wide Sargasso Sea relate to Jane Eyre?

Wide Sargasso Sea gives a voice to Brontë’s madwoman in the attic, one of her most mysterious characters. Rhys imagines what Antoinette’s life is like before her arrival at Thornfield Hall and humanizes her struggle in a way that Brontë could not. Through this process, Rhys also calls greater attention to the themes of colonialism that lie underneath Jane Eyre. She offers a more explicit critique of the harm and suffering that conquest causes, and she uses her personal experiences and 20th century perspective to do so. Reading Wide Sargasso Sea offers readers a new way of looking at one of the 19th century’s most notable works.

What is the significance of Antoinette’s dreams?

Antoinette describes three different dreams throughout the course of the novel, and each one of them works to foreshadow key moments in her life. Her first dream occurs early in Part One and features her walking through the forest with a hidden person who hates her. The hatred she experiences hints at the rejection she will experience, at first from her mother and then from the rest of her community. At the end of Part One, Antoinette dreams again, this time of a strange man directing her through the dark forest. This vision foreshadows Rochester’s arrival and the controlling presence he will have in her life. Antoinette’s final dream occurs at the end of Part Three and inspires her to burn down Thornfield Hall.

Why does Mr. Rochester call Antoinette “Bertha”?

Mr. Rochester refuses to call Antoinette by her real name because of how similar it is to her mother’s name, Annette. He tries to create as much distance between his wife and her mother as a result of Annette’s descent into madness. By choosing to refer to Antoinette as “Bertha,” however, Rochester essentially erases her identity and strips her of her self-worth. She begs him to stop to no avail, and this behavior reflects Rochester’s inability to recognize her as an independent woman.

What kind of relationship does Antoinette have with Christophine?

Throughout the novel, Christophine takes on a mother-like role for Antoinette as Annette spirals out of control. She remains committed to the Cosway family even as they face ridicule for their financial situation, and even when she leaves to live with her own son, she continues to provide a constant source of advice and care. Antoinette goes to Christophine for advice as her marriage to Rochester falls apart, and this moment reveals the true emotional bond between them. The way in which Christophine stands up to Rochester when Antoinette no longer can reinforces the sense of responsibility she feels toward her.