The Use of Deceit in Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and Jean Rhy’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’

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Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ (1966), written as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ and in the style of a postcolonial novel, takes the before accepted ‘truth’ behind Brontë’s madwoman in the attic. Rhys gives her a new voice under a new name of Antoinette Mason, whilst focusing on the negative effect of European colonization on West Indian society. Rhys believes that readers of ‘Jane Eyre’ (1847) are deceived and are not shown the ‘true’ reason why Mr Rochester’s new bride, Bertha Mason declined into madness. Rhys, being of West Indian origin herself, explores and extends Brontë’s character- Rhys’ novel of course was written long after Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre.’ For example, both writer and character share the negative experience of a feeling of social isolation, living as white creoles in largely black communities. Thereby Rhys creates a character which a modern audience can relate to and sympathise with, drawn from her own personal experiences. The idea of having a protagonist that audiences can relate to is stimulated from ‘Jane Eyre,’ where Brontë created an unconventional female protagonist whom a 19th century female audience could relate to or aspire to be like. One of the earliest critical responses to Brontë’s novel was from G.H. Lewes (a mid Victorian literary critic) who said, ‘the grand secret of Jane Eyre’s success was its reality. From out the depths of a sorrowing experience, here was a voice speaking to thousands.’ Lewes recognises Brontë has written a novel valued on realism, creating a voice that speaks to the disappointments and triumphs of its readers. The audience therefore recognises Brontë’s character of Jane Eyre as a ‘real’ character that speaks the truth, the opposite of deceit. Rhys’ use of setting enhances the dramatic themes and exotic ideas that are explored throughout the novel. In the extract where Antoinette explains to

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