Creole as a Third Space in Jean Rhys’ Novel Essay

Creole as a Third Space in Jean Rhys’ Novel Essay

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Jean Rhys writes Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre (1847) in order to give life to Bertha Mason, a Jamaican creole who is locked in the attic as a madwoman by her English husband, Rochester. Rhys thinks that Bertha is completely undermined and negated in Bronte’s novel. Bronte’s silences over Bertha’s identity and history enforce Rhys to break the unspoken and deliberately neglected white creole’s identity; and give her a voice that humanizes this supposedly inferior creole, and validates her quest for identity and belonging while also challenging Western hegemonic expectations and conditions. Rhys, in an interview with Hannah Carter, reveals:
The mad wife in Jane Eyre has always interested me. I was convinced that Charlotte Bronte must have had something against the West Indies and I was angry about it. Otherwise, why did she take a West Indian for that horrible lunatic, for that really dreadful creature? I hadn’t really formulated the idea of vindicating the madwoman in the novel, but when I was rediscovered I was encouraged to do so. (qtd. in Nunez 287)
Wide Sargasso Sea depicts Antoinette Cosway, a white creole woman and descendent of the European colonizers, torn between her white creole identity and her affiliation with and attachment to the colonized, black people of postcolonial Jamaica. Black people negate Antoinette because her father was a slave-owner and the English people condemn her because she comes from the West Indies. Antoinette is neither fully accepted by the colonized black people nor by the white European colonizers. She continuously struggles to negotiate between completely opposing expectations and spaces of black Jamaican and white European cultures. Consequently...


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...mporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. 3rd. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007. 1643-1655.
Huddart, David. Homi K. Bhabha. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Nunez-Harrell, Elizabeth. "The Paradoxes of Belonging: The White West Indian Woman in Fiction." MFS Modern Fiction Studies 31.2 (1985): 281-293.
Mezei, Kathy. "'And it Kept its Secret': Narration, Memory, and Madness in Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea." Critique 28.4 (1987): 195-209.
Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Rutherford, Jonathan. "Third Space: Interview with Homi K. Bhabha." Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990. 207-221.
Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Penguin, 1968.
Thieme, John. "Pre-Text and Con-Text Rewriting the Carribean." (Un)writing Empire. Ed. Theo D' Haen. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998. 81-98.

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Creole as a Third Space Essay

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