Dreams in Wide Sargasso Sea
Alan Gordon '06, English 156, Brown University, 2004
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This essay is Part II of Alan Gordon's "Dreams in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea." The first part, which discusses Jane Eyre, reesides in the Victorian Web. Dreams are prevalent in both Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel Jane Eyre, and in Jean Rhys's 1966 postcolonial re-writing of it, Wide Sargasso Sea. In both works, dreams provide glimpses of the repressed or unexpressed emotions of characters. In both novels they also foreshadow events for the benefit of the characters and the reader. Dreams in Wide Sargasso Seaalso often contain parallel imagery to dreams of Jane Eyre. The novels, though, have different attitudes towards the distinction between dreams and reality. In Jane Eyre, dreams can drive or reflect waking life, but the two entities remain largely distinct. In Wide Sargasso Sea, dreams leak into the waking world of the narrators, thus giving the novel a dreamlike tone. While dreams in Jane Eyre are tidy and contained, the dreams of Wide Sargasso Sea are jumbled and swamplike. In Jean Rhys's postcolonial re-writing of Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, dreams serve many of the same functions that they serve in the original. The dreams of protagonist Antoinette are often clairvoyant like Jane's. Both characters also reveal interior selves when dreaming; Jane's dreams reflect a part of her consciousness that she represses and Antoinette's dreams reflect a part of her consciousness that she has trouble expressing. Indeed, the functional components of Antoinette's dreams often parallel those of Jane's dreams. Jean Rhys was clearly as aware of the various uses of dreams as Charlotte Brontë. Over the course of the novel, Antoinette has a series of three dreams which she describes as different manifestations of the same dream. These parallel the three dreams Jane Eyre has as she grows increasingly anxious over her marriage. Like Jane's dreams, they give much insight to Antoinette's maturing character and provide important foresight into future events in her life. Antoinette's first dream takes place in her childhood, the night after her playmate Tia cheats her out of three pennies, steals her dress, and dismisses Antoinette as a "white nigger" (24). I dreamed that I was walking in the forest. Not alone. Someone who hated me was with me, out of sight. I could hear heavy footsteps coming closer and though I struggled and screamed, I could not move. I woke crying.  This dream reflects young Antoinette's undeveloped sense of self-awareness. Its use of past tense suggests that Antoinette is distanced from her dream consciousness. The vagueness of the threat in her dream suggests she does not understand her fears, and reflects her bewilderment and fear at Tia's rejection of her. The dream roughly parallels Jane Eyre's first dream of Rochester. As Klopier points out, Antoinette's dream is a sort of inverse of Jane Eyre's. Jane's nightmares are based on the receding figure of Rochester, and the inability to reach him. Antoinette's are based on a malevolent figure approaching her. As Jane's dream recurs, so does Antoinette's. Antoinette has her "bad dream" for the second time at age seventeen, after her stepfather visits her at her serene convent school and tells her he is arranging for suitors to visit her (27). Again I have left the house at...