Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Analasis

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Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, an Indian Scholar, feminist critic and theorist, mentions in the Three Women’s Text and a Critique of British Imperialism that it is necessary to understand Imperialism to read 19th century British Literature, as England’s social mission was to spread imperialism. In this text she examines three works of famous three female writers; they are 1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 2) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys 3) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The present text deals with primary concerns to represent ‘Frankenstein’ as an analysis, a deconstruction of Jane Eyre’s worlding, examine Wide Sargasso Sea as Jane Eyre’s ‘re-inscription’, and expose the imperialist “worlding” in Jane Eyre’s work.

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In this text she writes that the role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored; she says that “the third world” as a signifier allows us to forget that even “worlding” expands the empire of the literary discipline. By mentioning the above-mentioned texts she writes that the way of demonstrating that literature written in an imperialist framework does not subvert imperialism simply because it is written by women.

After writing about the ‘subject-constitution’ of the female individualist she explains that stake for feminist individualism in the age of imperialism is represented on two registers: childbearing and soul-making. She says that the construction of English women in imperialism overlaps and bleeds into the construction of the “intellectual other”. To establish this point, she refers to a passage from Roberto Fernandez Retamar’s “Caliban”. She visualizes the triangular relationship of Caliban, the uncivilized native other, Ariel, the ‘intellectual’ native other and Prospero, the patriarch and colonizer. Next, she focuses on the marginalization and privatization of the protagonist Jane in the text of Jane Eyre. 

She examines Jane’s progress from being the ‘counter family’ (other) to be the family (self) mirrors and reproduces the active ideology of imperialism. She is the part of the community of families, with Rochester, and her children at the centre while the project of soul-making was ‘mere’ sexual reproduction. Next, Spivak moves to Wide Sargasso Sea as a re-inscription of Jane Eyer in which Rhys attempts to re-imagine Bertha/Antoniette as intelligent (Ariel) rather than without reason (Caliban). 

After that she analyses language, voice and text of Wide Sargasso Sea, wherein she finds both aiding and impeding project of individualizing. Rhys suggests that a thing of personal and human identity might be determined by the politics of imperialism; for instance Christophine, Antoinette’s black nurse, a commoditized person, she was a gift from her mother’s wedding; Rhys allows only her to offer a hard analysis of Rochester’s actions, to challenge him in a face-to-face encounter. 

She concludes with the note that no critical perspective of imperialism can turn the ‘other’ into a self, because the project of imperialism has always historically refracted; what might have been the absolute ‘other’ into a domesticated ‘other’ that consolidates the imperialist self. Frankenstein is represented as a counterpoint to the imperialism embedded in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. 

She writes Frankenstein “a text of nascent feminism… [That] does not speak the language of feminist individualism” which relies on “the axiomatic of imperialism”. She explains it is not a battlefield of male and female individualism articulated as sexual reproduction (family& female) and social subject-production (race & male). Spivak emphasizes the point that Frankenstein’s antagonist is God himself as a maker of man but his real competitor is also a woman as the maker of children. 

She ends with the notes that neither Frankenstein’s creature nor women fit into the Caliban/Ariel / Prosperso’s schematic world that governed the previously discussed novels. Spivak attempts to show in the text that the function of the woman and ‘other’ overlap and intertwine. In Spivak’s words “the place of both the English Lady and the unnameable monster are left open by this great flawed text”.   

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