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Whispers outside the Room - The Haunted Fiction of Jean Rhys - Essay Example

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This paper "Whispers outside the Room - The Haunted Fiction of Jean Rhys" looks at how legitimate is the novella Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, in terms of discussing whether the relationship between this book and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte compromises its validity as an independent work of art. …
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Whispers outside the Room - The Haunted Fiction of Jean Rhys
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The Wide Sargasso Sea attempts a re-writing of the character of the 'madwoman' from Bronte's Jane Eyre, changing the name of the character from Bertha to Antoinette. The novella deals with the issue of how Antoinette falls into madness, using a variety of narrators to look at this issue from different viewpoints; all of these narrators are taken from Bronte's novel, for example, Rochester, Grace Poole and Antoinette. The novella is therefore directly based on Jane Eyre, but changes the names of the characters, and uses characters taken from this book to expand upon the issues discussed within this book, using other techniques, such as changing the timeframe of the book (to the late 1830's), through which she is then able to discuss the issues she wishes to approach.
As such, we can see that Wide Sargasso Sea shows much use of originality, whilst appropriating many of the main features (characters/events etc) from Jane Eyre. Whilst many of Bronte's characters are appropriated by Rhys, they are changed in subtle ways, in order that they can be used by Rhys as devices with which she can make her desired points in the novella. For example, one of the main aims of Wide Sargasso Sea is to discuss the issue of emancipation; Antoinette, and the different timeframe, and the different viewpoints of the narrators are thus used as tools by Rhys to be able to explore this issue.
In addition, it has been argued that Rhys, a female creole herself, wished to update Bronte's novel, which can be considered quite racist and anti-feminist; through the updating of the timeframe of the novel, and a consideration of the issues from the point of view of Antoinette, along with different perspectives from other characters which are allowed to narrate in Wide Sargasso Sea, we can see that Rhys takes Bronte's original ideas, appropriates them and makes them her own; she, therefore, gives them originality, by bringing her own perspective to the action she wishes to portray in the novella.
As such, Rhys novella is a truly original piece of work, taking its basis in Jane Eyre's earlier novel, but using Rhys' own techniques and point of view to produce an entirely original work of art, that stands independently of Eyre's work. The fact that Rhys has appropriated pieces of Eyre's novel is important for the understanding of Wide Sargasso Sea but this fact itself does not negate the originality of Rhys work, which is truly original in its conception and execution.
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