Reconstruction of Agency and Humanity in Female Protagonists Essay

Reconstruction of Agency and Humanity in Female Protagonists Essay

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Lutchmee and Dilloo: A Story of West Indian Life by Edward Jenkins was the first attempt to influence public opinion against the indenture servitude system by making the victims into characters that the reader could empathize with. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys explores the one-dimensional character, Bertha Mason of Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In her version Rhys attempts to develop Antoinette into an individual and portray her not as the Madwoman from the attic, but as a victim of the external forces of a patriarchal society. Both texts plead for the humanity of their female protagonist, with the intent of having the reader see them as full human beings. Where in one text the writer successfully portrays the protagonist as a human being deserving of sympathy, the other has aspects of form and literary elements that threaten and ultimately fails to provide the objective stated by the writer himself.
In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys gives new life and identity to Bronte’s Bertha Mason as the protagonist Antoinette Cosway. The novel opens to Antoinette’s narration, “They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks. The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother, ‘because she pretty like pretty self’ Christophine said”. In those first sentences, Antoinette faces issues of identity within two cultures. She distinguishes herself from the white people, referencing that in that society there is a hierarchy of power among the white creoles. Her rank limits her ability to claim whiteness, for she is the daughter of a now impoverished family. However, in noting Christophine, who serves as the only mother-like figure hints that Antoinette’s beliefs are shaped by those of the black society she...


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...tchmee and Dilloo: A Story of West Indian Life . Vol. 1. London: W. Mullan & Son, 1877. Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine . Web. 29 Mar. 2012. .

Jenkins, Edward. Lutchmee and Dilloo: A Story of West Indian Life . Vol. 2. London: W. Mullan & Son, 1877. Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine . Web. 29 Mar. 2012. .

Jenkins, Edward. Lutchmee and Dilloo: A Story of West Indian Life . Vol. 3. London: W. Mullan & Son, 1877. Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine . Web. 29 Mar. 2012. .

Rhys, Jean, and Francis Wyndham. Wide Sargasso Sea . New York: Norton, 1992. Print.

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