The final novel written by Jane Rhys. Wide Sargasso Sea is her most powerful and compelling work. Based on Charlotte Brante’s novel Jane Eyre, the author gives a different perspective on the role of the infamous mad wife in the attic. This is Antoinette,the daughter of a Martinique girl and Cosway, a depraved slave owner. The distinct vividness of Antoinette’s dreams foreshadow her fateful death in England. Rhys built her character of Antoinette around the framework of the three ominous dreams which Antoinette has. As Antoinette’s madness progresses her dreams become more clear as she confronts her fate. In this novel Rhys’ Antoinette creates a haunting new dimension to Brante’s Jane Eyre.

I found Wide Sargasso Sea, the story of Jane Eyre's mad attic-bound wife, to be a better book than Jane Eyre itself. I found Antionette to be a very sympathetic and compelling character, while Jane Eyre always seemed a bit too saccharin for my taste.

The subject of madness has been of great concern to feminist thought, since women, especially women who are at all rebellious, are often labeled "crazy" or "hysterical" (that word itself, of course, coming from the word for "womb"). Go read The Yellow Wallpaper.

So the story that emerges is that Antionette, and her mother before her, are actually driven crazy. Antionette shows no signs of lunacy until she is forced into an arranged marriage with a visciously manipulative man* who takes all her money and then cavorts with the servants, she is forced to leave her Caribbean home for cold, grey England, and then locked in an attic and sedated because her husband doesn't want to deal with her and is afraid she will go mad (kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy). And then some goody-two-shoes bitch tries to come in and marry her husband, the only man she's ever loved (they did have a nice honeymoon, before he started sleeping with the servants and drugging her and locking her in the attic). I'd set them on fire, too.

As a girl, I loved Jane Eyre. As a woman, I much prefer the story of Wide Sargasso Sea.


*Okay, granted, he's being manipulated here, too, by his money-loving father who has tricked him into the marriage. But there's no reason for him to take that out on Antionette.

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