Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

1. Finish READING Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (excerpt POSTED in the READINGS Folder)

Rhys’s novel is divided in three parts:

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a) Antoinette’s childhood in Jamaica + the fire + her courtship and wedding–narrated from Antoinette’s point of view, in Jamaica.

b) Antoinette’s married life–narrated from Eduward’s point of view, in Jamaica.

c) Antoinette’s life in England–narrated from Antoinette’s point of view, in England.


a) Why did Antoinette’s family go bankrupt?

b) After the bankruptcy The Crosways lived in a female household. How come they were not bothered by the locals?

c) What is Obeah? What is the social function of Obeah for the family? Relate that to the death of the parrot.

d) Why was Antoinette married off to her husband? Why was he married off to her? How is that related to her tragic fate?

c) What are some similar points to Bronte’s novel? What are some crucial differences? What do you make out of these points?

d) What are some similarities between Antoinette and Yolanda, from Alvarez’s novel?

e) How did Antoinette get her name changed? How is that similar to what happened to Yolanda (Garcia Girls) and Jane (Jane Eyre)?

2. By Wed. 3/16 POST your Journal entry response to Rhys. In your response address the questions above.

Second part (different page )

1. Read everyone’s responses to Rhys before they disappear on Wed. night.

2. Watch the film versions of Wide Sargasso Sea. If the link breaks, get films from YOUTUBE or from Netflix.

Wide Sargasso Sea (1993), Nathaniel Parker.

a) Notice similarities and differences between the this novel and Bronte’s Jane Eyre.


Sample Answer



Antoinette’s family went bankrupt for two key reasons. Firstly, the family went bankrupt because of the death of Antoinette’s father. Secondly, the family went bankrupt because of the abolition of slavery. The situation led to the mismanagement of the estate and loss of labor which was for the generation of income for the family. While the Cosways lived in a female household, they were not bothered by the locals because they were viewed as poor and of lower social standing than the rest of the community. The locals were also wary of the family because Christophine was considered a Martinique obeah woman. Obeah relates to the practice of using supernatural powers to harm other people. For the Cosway family, obeah provided a level of protection from malicious people. It was considered unlucky to kill a parrot or watch one die. Therefore, the people who started the fire were cursed by the fact of the parrot’s death.

The marriage between Antoinette and Englishman Edward Rochester was an arranged marriage. Antoinette married Mr. Rochester because she wanted to find safety and stability within a marriage situation. On the other hand, Mr. Rochester married Antoinette because he wanted to acquire Antoinette’s possessions and become rich since he was excluded from inheriting his family’s fortunes. The marriage to Mr. Rochester is central to Antoinette’s tragic fate because it started her steep mental decline.

The first similarity of Wide Sargasso Sea to Bronte’s Jane Eyre is that both feature a female main character who grapples with considerable loss of both mental and physical freedom. Both Antoinette and Jane are married to a man named Rochester. The two novels are similar in both Antoinette and Jane have dreams that forebode future events. Furthermore, both Antoinette and Jane experience the loss of their mothers which drives them to seek maternal substitutes. The first difference between the two novels is that while Jane is strengthened by her challenges, Antoinette is weakened by her challenges. In their marriages, Jane manages to achieve a level of equality while Antoinette is subservient to her husband.

The first similarity shared by Antoinette and Yolanda is that both are immigrants in a new land. Antoinette is a creole in Jamaica while Yolanda is a Dominican in the US. As such, they both grapple with the cultural and social challenges of being different than the locals. Both Antoinette and Yolanda face difficulties in their marriages. The marital difficulties spark their mental problems.

Antoinette’s name change happens when her husband Rochester starts to call her Bertha. This is similar to what happened to Jane whose husband referred to her as Janet. Yolanda also endures situations of people close to her calling her by names other than Yolanda.

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