Word Count: 3238
Compare and contrast the ways in which Bronte and Rhys construct the adult selves of Jane and Antoinette and consider how this shapes their relationship with Rochester.
Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea present the childhoods and later lives of two women, who similarly marry the complex character, Mr. Rochester. Both begin their lives as outsiders, Jane because of economic differences to the rest of her family and Antoinette because of racial distinctions to the rest of her community. However, the characters undergo oppositional journeys in life, which in turn, shape their contrastive relationships with Rochester.
Bronte presents ‘Bertha Mason’ as a minor character, positioned in her novel as a mere obstacle in Jane and Rochester’s quest for happiness. However, in Rhy’s enlightening prequel to Bronte’s Jane Eyre, an unforeseen importance is placed upon Bertha’s alter ego, as Rhys expresses her own thoughts on Bronte’s doomed character through the voice ‘Antoinette Mason’. Rhy’s lexis, ‘There is always the other side, always’ underlies her opinion that Bertha was condemned by Bronte, having never allowed the character to share her side of the story. Rhys therefore offers the readers of Jane Eyre an entirely different perception, a chance to gain insight into the life and mind of the ‘mad woman in the attic’.
One of the most prominent differences between the two novels is the composition of the character’s development. Where Jane Eyre’s childhood experiences contribute somewhat to the independent and courageous woman she becomes, Antoinette’s clearly disturb her, as she grows to be an un-stable, vulnerable and dependent character.
Jane Eyre is constructed by Bronte as a novel of development, we, as readers, witness Jane’s character flourish and mature from being a passionate little girl to a well-educated and complex young woman. We follow Jane as she battles through isolation and heartache and ultimately achieves