Feminism in Jane eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea
A patriarchal society is a world in which men are the sole decision makers and hold positions of power and the highest authority. Patriarchy occurs when men are dominant, not necessarily in numbers but in their status related to decision making and power. As a result, women are introduced to a world made by men, and a history refined by a man’s actions.
In jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea, the author focuses on the history of Bertha, one of the characters who are not given a voice in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Although, Jane and Bertha have disparate lives, they are both victims of the patriarchal society in which they inhibit.The novels Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys portray women’s roles in two very different societies. Both novels presented feminist ideals that were unheard of before their in this era. Brontë’s novel is set in Victorian England in the early 1800s, a time in which women’s rights were limited and their roles within society were strictly defined. Rhys’ novel is set in the mid-1800s, and it explores one of Jane Eyre’s minor characters, Bertha Mason.
The novel takes place in the postcolonial Caribbean and briefly in England. Jane Eyre is a coming of age story about an, unloved orphan, whom in the end, finds love and family as well as personal riches. At the time it was published in 1947, Brontë issued her book under the alias of a male, Currer Bell. The novel is presented as an autobiography of a girl, which mirrors the author’s own life. It can be separated into five distinct parts: Jane’s time with her aunt at Gateshead, her time as a pupil and teacher at Lowood Institution, Jane’s time as a governess at Thornfield Hall, the time she spends as a teacher at St. John’s school, and finally, Jane’s reunion with Mr. Rochester.
Wide Sargasso Sea was Jean Rhys’s effort the history presented by Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre. The protagonist of Jane Eyre becomes an independent, free-thing, self-assured woman. The protagonist of Rhys’s text is the character who Jane will know later only as Rochester’s lunatic wife who is locked in the attic. This story is presented in a three part narrative, the middle part being in the first person voice of Rochester (although he is never named), the other two being the voice of Antoinette who later became the mad woman, Bertha in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
In the Wide Sargasso Sea, the main character refuses to be controlled by her husband, Mr.Rochester. Rochester renames her, it is evident that he uses this as a means to controls her.By altering her name, he believes that she is his property. Although, Mr.Rochester is attempting break her down physically and mentally, Antoinette, informs Mr.Rochester that she does not agree with him,and speaks up for herself in the process She says: ‘Bertha is not my name. You are trying to make me into someone else, calling me by another name’ (Rhys 115).
Renaming her is one way in which Rochester exerts his masculine power over his wife, but Antoinette only seems to submit to it. By standing up to Mr.Rochester, she is not allowing herself to be controlled by a man. In the end, however, after all the abuse she suffers under the hand of Mr.Rochester, she manages to break free from the suffering by making her last act of self-determination. By setting Mr.Rochester`s home on fire, the main character is committing an act of female liberation.
Knowing that her fate is doomed, and the future is inevitable, Antoinette decides to take charge of her own destiny. Despite the patriarchal society, Jane Eyre lives, she seems to refuse to accept her inferior role in society, Through , her personality, actions, thoughts, and beliefs. From the beginning of the book, Jane’s strong personality is quite clear. She often gets in trouble, arguing with her male counterparts, about how a woman’s place in society.
Furthermore, her refusal to accept the cultural norms of society is evident throughout the novel. For example, her attitude toward Mr. Rochester’s attempts to lavish her with jewels and expensive garments for her wedding. In fact, she says that “the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation” (Bronte 623).
Her unwillingness to be objectified is the most prominent indication that she does not define herself by her beauty. The main character’s disdain for male authority is evident throughout her childhood. In her early childhood in Gateshead Hall, Jane is continually abused by her aunt, Ms. Reed and cousins, John, Eliza and Georgiana. Jane was particularly abused by john who made her live in isolation and fear by beating her whenever he wants because he believed that Jane, as a woman and an orphan, is inferior. When John attempted to mentally and physically abuse her, Jane screamed, “Wicked and cruel boy!, you are like a murderer- you are like a roman emperor” (Bronte 65). Jane firmly decided to put an end to “the wicked boy” abuses.
For the first time, Jane stood up a fought back when john hit her. Jane riposte to john’s cruelties demonstrate her determination to fight against injustice. Although, Jane was punished for her actions, she does not regret fighting John back. Her quarrel and struggle against john creed injustice confirms Jane’s opposition to patriarchal obedience. Jane Eyre and the Wide Sargasso sea are thus the most potent examples of a feminist text. Although, the two characters have contrast upbringings, they are both quick to acknowledge injustice in society. Jane Eyre defiance of the barriers of gender, Jane Eyre build up the image of a woman who has the courage to fight against gender injustice within the society, and pursuit equality in life and opportunity. She is her own master. She acts freely according to her values and morality.
She did not bend to the role attributed to women in the 19th century. She is a feminist in the profound sense of the term. Finally, the novel Jane Eyre by charlotte Bronte represents a gigantic feminist novel. Jane Eyre is an appropriate heroine of the feminist movement because she embodies the value of feminism which is equal social, sexual, political, intellectual and economic right for both men and women.