Jane Eyre And Wide Sargasso Sea Essay 2019 Essay

1284 words - 6 pages

Ruby Gray
12/19/18
JE & WSS Essay
Madness, by definition is the state of being severely mentally ill. As for if this label was
fit for the characters in both Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys,
many readers wouldn't think so. Rather in both these novels, you see the labels of mentally ill
and mad being thrown around by men as a way of belittling and controlling the women who
stray from the social construct. This corruption is touched on in Jane Eyre where readers heard of
the madwoman in the attic named Bertha; but, it wasn't until Wide Sargasso Sea came out 119
years later, in which they watched as that young women, originally named as Antoinette, was
exposed to this patriarchal society that stole her character, labeled her mad, and left her in an
attic.
The women in these books, Jane Eyre and Antoinette, are set up to inevitable stray from
the social construct. They are both living in this patriarchal society that puts constraints on
women's characters. So to be and act as themselves is enough in many men’s eyes to be labeled
as mad. As Jane put it in Jane Eyre: “ Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but
women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as
much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation,
precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures
to say that they ought to confine themselves...It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at
them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their
sex”(Brontë 113). This shows that Jane feels the constraints put upon her to act as such that she
has no true character or purpose. These high standards of a women’s conduct make it so women
must suppress their characters in order to not be considered out of line. The problem in this
patriarchy, other than that it gives women no autonomy, is that it never allows men to see women
as they really are. Rather with it, men have it in their mindset that women are people who lack
psychological depth. It's not until one reads Wide Sargasso sea that the power of this view and
the consequences that come of it is visible. At one point in the novel, Rochester, the husband of
Antoinette, decides to rename her Bertha. Antoinette in reflecting on his decision expressed that
“Names matter, like when he wouldn’t call me Antoinette, and I saw Antoinette drifting out of
the window with her scents, her pretty clothes and her looking-glass” (Rhys 117). This
encapsulates the power these men had over the character of a women. As you can see, in calling
Antoinette Bertha, he alienates her identity and turns her into a the Victorian woman that he
wants. Ultimately, the patriarchal views that Rochester holds destroys Antoinette’s identity of
self.
The label of madness, as shown in these novels, is not represented through an actual
mental reality but through a...

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