Finding A Voice: Transition From Jane Eyre To Wide Sargasso Sea
The 19th century canonical text, Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847 is set in England and displays some attitudes of an English writer of her times. Yet more importantly, the novelist moves to a greater awareness of a changing world and is in fact a part of the change. She sets out to redefine some of the commonly held norms of the time, especially in the recasting of roles of women who had been marginalized for centuries. This novel serves as a source of inspiration for Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea written in 1966 - more than a hundred years after Charlotte Brontë’s novel. The novel picks up the story of Bertha Mason, who, in Jane Eyre, had not been given a voice and was presented as a mad woman who was confined to the attic at Thornfield Hall. Rhys gives us in detail, the point of view of Bertha, a Creole and sets her novel in West Indies. The action moves to England only at the end of the novel after Antoinette is declared mad. In Wide Sargasso Sea new perspectives on feminism emerge. Issues of race and colonialism that were only suggested in passing in the older novel, take the center stage in the 20th century novel. The objective of this paper is to juxtapose these two novels and see how their authors raise questions about issues of marginalization, feminism, race and colonization. The inter-textuality opens out a new arena for re-defining, re-locating and re-emphasizing older boundaries.