Alienation of ‘The Other’ and Female Madness in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea

Gargi Biswas


The voiceless madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre, Bertha, is the main protagonist of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, in which she is named as Antoinette Cosway. This novel tells the story of this ‘other woman,’ named Antoinette Cosway, and how her identity was oppressed, eventually leading to complete madness and loss of self. Rhys disagreed with Bronte’s depiction of Bertha Mason and generated a post-colonial story which portrays Bertha’s background and the various situations leading to her ‘doomed marriage, loss of identity, and madness’. The major characters in this novel are mostly expounded by their separateness from the cultural groups. Antoinette and her family, though white, do not belong to the dominant class of the white Jamaicans due to numerous reasons including local disapproval of her mother, Annette Cosway’s behaviour and appearance, as well as the family’s poverty after the death of Antoinette’s father, Alexander Cosway. The idea of women being shut up is repetitive in the novel and history is being repeated through two generations.

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