Characterization in Wide Sargasso Sea: An Introduction

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Brontë's and Rhys' different uses of first-person narration affect their characterization of Antoinette Cosway (Bertha), Edward Rochester, and Grace Poole: Jane Eyre, which is told solely from Jane's point of view, sees all three only from the outside and essentially provides sufficient and sympathetic backstory only for Rochester. Rhys, in contrast, has each of these figures relate their own stories. When considering the array of literary techniques that constitute characterization -- ranging from physical description and actions to interior thoughts -- which ones do you think dominate Wide Sargasso Sea and which are most important in Jane Eyre?

Rhys obviously leads us to compare her representation of Bertha to her predecesor's, and there the characterizations differ. But she also leads us to compare her first-person narrator (Antoinette) to Brontë's (Jane), since they are not only both first-person narrators they are also both orphans, attend religious schools for girls, and inherit large amounts of money. They also both marry Rochester.

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Last modified 7 January 2004