Past Meetup

February NOVELLA: Tue. 5th at Lakeview Chateau Cafe': 1966 "WIDE SARGASSO SEA"

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Join us a this new location in Lakeview for a discussion of Jean Rhys's 1966 novella "WIDE SARGASSO SEA". 200 pages.

Used copies available on amazon.com for a penny before shipping.

For more info, contact Guy Henoumont anytime at[masked] or at [masked] .

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The novel is Rhys's answer to Jane Eyre (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url?index=books&field-keywords=Bronte%20and%20Eyre). She struggled over the book, enduring rejections and revisions, wrestling to bring this ruined woman out of the ashes. The slim volume was finally published when she was 70 years old. The critical adulation that followed, she said, "has come too late." Jean Rhys died a few years later, but with Wide Sargasso Sea she left behind a great legacy, a work of strange, scary loveliness. There has not been a book like it before or since. Believe me, I've been searching. --Emily White --

The novel is a triumph of atmosphere of what one is tempted to call Caribbean Gothic atmosphere. . . . It has an almost hallucinatory quality. --New York Times --
Wikipedia on "Wide Sargasso Sea" (novel): Comparison to Jane Eyre

The most striking difference between the two novels is that Wide Sargasso Sea transforms Rochester's first wife from Bertha Mason, the infamous "madwoman in the attic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Madwoman_in_the_Attic)," to the lively yet vulnerable Antoinette Cosway. She is no longer a cliché or a "foreign," possibly "half-caste" lunatic, but a real woman with her own hopes, fears, and desires. Wide Sargasso Sea tells her side of the story as well as Rochester's, detailing how she ended up alone and raving in the attic of Thornfield Hall. It gives a voice not only to her, but to the black people in the West Indies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Indies) whom Rochester regards with such loathing. In Rhys' version of events, Antoinette's insanity, infidelity, and drunkenness are the result of Rochester's misguided belief that madness is in her blood and that she was part of the scheme to have him married blindly.

A minor difference is that in Jane Eyre, Richard Mason refers to Bertha as his sister. In Wide Sargasso Sea he's the older stepbrother of Antoinette from her stepfather's previous marriage. As Antoinette, Bertha's given more siblings and half-siblings, in Jane Eyre Richard was the only known sibling she had.

The characters of Jane Eyre and Antoinette are very similar. They are both independent, vivacious, imaginative young women with troubled childhoods, educated in religious establishments and looked down on by the upper classes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_class) — and, of course, they both marry Mr Rochester. However, Antoinette is more rebellious than Jane and less mentally stable, possibly because she has had to live through even more distressing circumstances. She displays a deep vein of morbidity verging on a death wish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_wish) (making her more similar perhaps to the character of Helen from Jane Eyre) and, in contrast with Jane's overt Christianity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity), holds a cynical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynical) viewpoint of both God and religion in general.

Major themes

Wide Sargasso Sea is usually thought of as a postmodern (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature) and postcolonial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postcolonial_literature) response to Jane Eyre.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Sargasso_Sea#cite_note-1)[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Sargasso_Sea#cite_note-2) Rhys uses multiple voices (Antoinette's, Rochester's, and Grace Poole's) to tell the story, and deeply intertwines her novel's plot with that of Jane Eyre. In addition, Rhys makes a postcolonial argument when she ties Antoinette's husband's eventual rejection of Antoinette to her Creole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creole_peoples) heritage (a large factor in Antoinette's descent into madness). As postmodern and postcolonial literature have taken a greater place in university curricula, the novel has been taught to literature students more often in recent years.

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