Many see Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea as interlinked. That to be led by the latter’s deep and discriminatory nature you must first get to the heart of the former. And vice versa. Bear with me while I make a case for why neither is true.
The writing style of Wide Sargasso Sea is more critical than Jane Eyre. And in that, lies everything that separates both works. The nuanced approach of Jean Rhys to capture the imagination of Antoinette (who is the protagonist of Wide Sargasso Sea and the banal, unbalanced first-wife of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre) is awe-inspiring. Her writing digs deeper roots that redefine the presupposed narrative of paternalism.
It’s horrific, modern, and vivid. Everything that is is because of the way her characters respond to this very desolation.
What’s so intriguing about the story is how isolated and pensive the characters are. Antionette, Rochester, and Christophine. They reify what feels damnable and forgotten in human nature. The ruination of one’s psyche through sexual, repressed, and insidious greediness.
We see Antionette’s dismay as intelligently as we see Rochester’s disdain. But seeing and believing, in the world of Wide Sargasso Sea, are two dissimilar passions. The story would like to forget it ever happened even though it continues to coalesce with the ruinous destiny of humankind.
Eventually, the novel sketches its own distinct nature as it lures the reader into life’s forbidden crevices.
Why shouldn’t a novel of such sharp and psychologically-charged imagination exist on its own?
In fact, through Antionette’s dreams and her fading childhood I found horror in even a very domestic portrayal of life. Something that contrasts Jane Eyre’s passionate yet gloomy narrative.