Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys   ISBN-13: 978-0393352566 176 pages                                                          
Friday, December 8, 2017, Time: 1:00-3:00
Location: Northbrook Public Library, Civic Room

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

The novel describes the background to the marriage that Jane learns about after going to work for Mr. Rochester. It is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress, from the time of her youth in Jamaica, to her unhappy marriage to a certain English gentleman—he is never named by the author. He renames her to a prosaic Bertha, declares her mad, and requires her to relocate to England. Caught in an oppressive patriarchal society in which she fully belongs neither to the Europeans nor the Jamaicans, Antoinette Cosway is Rhys' version of Brontë's devilish "madwoman in the attic." As with many postcolonial works, the novel deals with the themes of ethnic inequality and the harshness of displacement and assimilation. It is also concerned with power relations between men and women.

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