No Distinction Between Black And White

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Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys

Writing About Literature-- EL 237

 

One thing that I have noticed about this particular story in relation to Jane Eyre is that there is a schism between two groups of people that sets the tone of this story. In Jane Eyre, it was rich and poor and in Wide Sargasso Sea it is whites and blacks. The fact that Antonette's family is living amongst blacks who really resents the social chokehold that the whites (English, preferably) had on the area. But there is always one character, in this case Antonette, that could at first live among blacks is beginning to have some some of resentment toward them. Especially when her brother Pierre was killed and her entire family was driven out of Coulibri. This was the Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1834, a prime point of Jamaican history. There is a quote that sticks out to me about the entire issue of race in Wide Sargasso Sea ( I want to stress that this is a quote from the book): "Old time white people nothing but white nigger now, and black nigger better than white nigger." Who could anyone live under so much pressure and not have it affect them negatively, white or black. I like how Rhys mix in a historical event into a book that is based on a minor character of another book. It seems like a lot of work to make these literary connections to another piece of work.

How far do you think Rhys had to go in order to go in order to make one of Bronte's characters into her own? How can Rhys develop a situation that surrounds and involves a character that is not hers to begin with?   

3 Comments

I think it's a kind of formal fan fiction. Basically, she just had to take a character, or characters, that she could center a story around and let her imagination run wild.

All we knew of "Bertha"'s ancestry in Jane Eyre was that she was a dark skinned foreigner. I think it takes a writer with a great imagination to take such minor details and create an equally entertaining story around them. I totally agree with Jen on the fanfiction.I know from personal experience that when you really connect with a story, you start to care about the characters and wonder about the parts of their lives that aren't mentioned in the book. Fanfiction can be of literary merit: it can gives us additional perspectives on characters. Rhys must have been a huge Bronte fan.

I think it's interesting that, as Dani points out, in Jane Eyre she is a dark-skinned foreigner, but in Wide Sargasso Sea she is persecuted because she is white. I agree Kevin, the white/black relationship hits home.