Comparing Wide Sargasso Sea To Jane Eyre
As I mentioned in my preview of Wide Sargasso Sea, this novel by Jean Rhys is written as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre.
Now, here’s a sad admission: I’ve never read Jane Eyre. Can you believe that insanity?
Most of you guys thought that my lameness in not having read Jane Eyre wouldn’t affect my understanding of Wide Sargasso Sea–especially with the stories being written by two different authors. Would it help to know a little more background on these characters? Probably. But a good story is a good story, right?
All that said, and fully admitting that I haven’t read Jane Eyre, I thought I’d do my best to compare the two books today, using my initial thoughts about Wide Sargasso Sea as my guide.
Let’s start with the main character in Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette Cosway—known as Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. In WSS, she’s alive and vibrant—even hopeful—despite the fact she’s lost her mother to craziness, and her youngest brother was killed in a fire set by former slaves. In Jane Eyre, she lives alone in the attic of Thornfield Hall, and is considered a raving lunatic.
Then there’s her husband, the Englishman, Mr. Rochester. WSS describes how the two meet—arranged—and how, as strangers, they never connect while living together in Dominica in the West Indies. Rochester never learns to trust Antoinnette or the Islanders—who he thinks conspire against him in some kind of voodooish fashion. In Jane Eyre, Rochester of course marries Jane while Bertha becomes the “madwoman in the attic.”
Also of note is the tone of the two novels. Jane is a Christian, which brings Christian overtones throughout Jane Eyre. But Antoinnette is cynical of Christianity and God, repeatedly saying things like “your God” to Mr. Rochester. She definitely has a more antagonistic view of God and faith.
As I’m still working through the novel, that’s all I have for now.
But what are some other similarities/differences between Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea?