Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Wide Sargasso Sea
- When Written: early 1950’s–1966
- Where Written: Cornwall, UK, and Devon, UK
- When Published: 1966
- Literary Period: Postcolonialism, Postmodernism
- Genre: Postcolonial novel, revisionist novel, coming-of-age novel (bildungsroman), 20th-century feminist writing, postmodern novel
- Setting: 1830’s Jamaica
- Climax: Antoinette and Christophine return to the house at Granbois to confront the husband after his infidelity, Christophine and the husband argue, he makes the decision to leave Jamaica
- Antagonist: The husband, Daniel Cosway
- Point of View: First person, multiple points of view; Part One is in Antoinette’s point of view, Part Two switches back and forth between Antoinette’s and the husband’s points of view, and Part Three between Antoinette’s and Grace Poole’s. In all sections of the novel, each narrator is looking back at the events that occur from an unspecified future vantage point. For Antoinette in Part Three, this means that she narrates from beyond the grave.
The Madwoman In the Attic. Jean Rhys was not the only author moved to feminist critique by the character of Bertha Mason. In 1979, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published The Madwoman In the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. In it, Gilbert and Gubar use the work of female authors like the Bronte sisters, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and George Eliot to show that nineteenth century women were confined to portraying female characters as either “angels” (like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre) or “monsters” (like Bertha Mason). They urge female writers to break down this dichotomy. Though published a decade before this seminal work of feminist criticism, Wide Sargasso Sea seems to enact precisely what Gilbert and Gubar call for in their book. Rhys takes the “monster” figure of Bertha and revises it with Antoinette, who is neither angel nor monster, but contains elements of both in a fully imagined, if deeply troubled, female character.