Wide Sargasso Sea Study Guide

Wide Sargasso Sea Study Guide

Original title:
Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys wrote “Wide Sargasso Sea” in 1966. It demonstrates the inequality in the society on the grounds of ethical origins, as well as depicts the racial conflict from a standpoint of white slave owners.

The novel is about Antoinette Cosway who lives in Jamaica, and who the reader might have heard about in the “Jane Eyre” book. Antoinette finds herself on the other side of the racial battlefield. Her parents used to own slaves, but now after the Emancipation Act and the death of the father their life started to perish. They live in an estate that is slowly losing its wealth and position. When the mother remarries, the financial situation of the family improves, but they still find themselves surrounded by hostile people.

The novel demonstrates what happened with society after the slaves were freed, but the relationship among people didn’t change. As the economic and financial issues intensified, the hatred among different social groups grew and became violent.

Antoinette married to an English man who was paid for doing it. He needed the money but didn’t want to get accustomed to the new culture his wife introduced to him. Without going into many details, he proclaimed his wife mad and started calling her Bertha.

Antoinette narrates the last part of the book. She has been brought to England and locked up in the house. She doesn’t know where she is or how long she has been there. She is clearly violent, but we are only left wondering what has caused her disrupted mental condition.

Jean Rhys demonstrates with this book that understanding other people is like crossing a large sea. It takes time and efforts, and it is not an easy journey. Very often people fall into the trap of stereotyping over the cultures that are unknown to us, but this world would have been a much nicer place if we only took time to get to know each other’s stories.

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