Compare and Constrast 'Wide Sargasso Sea' and 'the Awakening'

Topics: Marriage, Wide Sargasso Sea, Patriarchy Pages: 5 (1790 words) Published: April 17, 2011
Compare and contrast how ‘Patriarchy’ shows oppression in ‘The Awakening’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. ‘Patriarchy’ is a social organisation in which the father or eldest male is head of a household or tribe, having supreme authority over his women and children. It is a system of government, where men hold the power, and women are largely excluded from it. A patriarchal civilisation promotes the dominance of men in social or cultural societies. Jean Rhys (August 24th – 1890 May 14th 1979) was a Dominican modernist writer; Rhys is widely recognised for her postcolonial novel ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, which is considered to be a post-modern feminist text. Another writer that wrote about the governance of patriarchy over matriarchy, in her bildungsroman novel ‘The Awakening’, was an American author called Kate Chopin (February 8th 1850 – August 22nd 1904). She was viewed as one of the first feminists as her writings reflect the barriers women faced in society, when equality between genders was not acknowledged. Although the narratives of each novel differ, there are a number of similarities that is presented in the writer’s ideologies. An example is the oppression experienced by both protagonist characters ‘Antoinette’ from ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ and ‘Edna Pontellier’ from ‘The Awakening’. Each was faced with dictatorship from their husband’s in the narratives. When Mr. Rochester is told his wife has declined matrimony, he thinks solely about his pride and status amongst the English public quote ‘rejected suitor jilted by this Creole girl’. Rhys illustrates how manipulative men can be, as he deceitfully convinces Antoinette to marry him, claiming he will ‘go with a sad heart’ promising her falsities of ‘peace, happiness and safety’. Similarly Kate Chopin conveys Mrs. Pontellier’s marriage as ‘purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which ‘masquerade as the decrees of Fate.’ This quote indicates Edna was not alone in considering marriage to be a mistake for numerous marriages resembled her own. Both authors exemplify marriage as a factor that the protagonist characters are foredoomed by. Antoinette gradually has her identity deprived from her by Mr. Rochester he states ‘I think of you as Bertha.’ A fictional character he creates in an attempt to distance her from her ‘mad’ mother, whose full name was Antoinette. He persists saying ‘you must be Bertha’ and also calls her ‘Marionetta’ a cruel joke that reflects Antoinette's doll-like pliability. She endeavours to take back her individuality, by stating ‘Bertha is not my name you are trying to make me into someone else’ as tears stream down her eyes. Jean Rhys demonstrates how the abuse caused by Rochester causes Antoinette to turn into a psychopathic deranged woman (‘my lunatic. My mad girl’ quotes ‘Mr. Rochester). To him she is a ‘ghost’. Similarly, Mr. Pontellier words also leaves his wife in tears when he interrogates her, ‘If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it?’ He claims she has a ‘habitual neglect of the children’ questioning her authority as a mother. As a result Mrs. Pontellier is left in tears quote ‘she began to cry a little’. Both male characters reduce their wives to tears their remarks are harsh and affect their wellbeing. Kate Chopin narrates Léonce Pontellier as a character that would prefer to picture his wife as a domestic figure rather than a person. He awakens ‘an indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness.’ This extract is a revelation of the future events coded within the narrative; patriarchy is the cause of Edna’s oppression which leads her to self-discovery. Contrastingly, Jean Rhys depicts Rochester untruthful personality from a young age quote ‘how old was I when I learned to hide what I felt? A very small boy.’ This passage is an insight to Rochester treacherous nature, he has learnt to be misleading from his early years, which makes he...
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