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Wide Sargasso Sea is a postcolonial novel that serves as a prequel and reinterpretation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.
Antoinette in Part One; Rochester for most of Part Two except for a scene narrated by Antoinette (when she visits Christophine); Grace Poole and then Antoinette in Part Three
Rhys's critique of English colonialism and capitalist values comes through in her depiction of post-Emancipation Jamaica. She exposes the degraded ideologies of a traditionally slave-owning elite and—although she provides for Rochester's perspective—her point of view seems distinctly Caribbean. In fact, Rhys saw herself as a displaced colonial and vehemently opposed English culture.
Nightmarish; violent; foreboding; sensual; exotic; romantic; passionate; ecstatic; mysterious
In the sections narrated by Antoinette the tense shifts from present to past making it difficult to locate her in time and affording her a disembodied, ghost-like presence. Rochester's narration is more like a testimonial and is delivered in the past tense
Wide Sargasso Sea is set in the 1840s in Jamaica, the Windward Islands, and England.
Descriptions of nature that are eerie or strange; the death by poison of Annette's horse; Mr. Luttrell's violent outburst and disappearance; Tia's cruel betrayal; the burning death of Coco; the omnipresence of death in the cool, crypt-like convent; the recurring forest-abduction dream; descriptions of ruined houses; the ominous crowing of the cock; moths burning themselves in candles
Identifying the climax in of the novel depends largely on how we read it in relation to Jane Eyre. If we stress the novel's significance as a prequel to Brontë's novel, we might argue that Antoinette's final lines—as she prepares to enact her fatal dream—represent the climax of the action. On the other hand, taken as an independent work in its own right, Wide Sargasso Sea points to the rising hatred between Antoinette and Rochester. According to this perspective, the climax might be the moment in which Rochester sees what he has made of his wife: "I was too shocked to speak. Her hair hung uncombed and dull into her eyes which were inflamed and staring, her face was very flushed and looked swollen. Her feet were bare."
Rochester decides to symbolically "kill" Antoinette by pushing her to childlike imbecility.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Wide Sargasso Sea!