Final Essay Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte vs. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

It is known that many literary works share some common features which are represented by some common themes, ideas, characters, setting, date of publication, and what not. However, each literary work has its individual characteristics which cannot be compared with any other literary works. It means that these characteristics make this or that novel or short story unique in its own way. Let’s take, for example, two novels Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.  Both novels were written by female writers and share some common themes. However, these novels are dated to different historical periods. The novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was written in 1847, while Wide Sargasso Sea written by Jean Rhys in 1966 is considered to be a prequel to Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Although these novels have very much in common, one can find a lot of differences between them which are concluded in the different characteristics of the main characters, different setting, and different style of writing.

The main character of Charlotte Bronte’s novel is Jane Eyre, a young girl who had been orphaned as a child, but whose traits of character deserve admiration because she is independent and honest. The main character of Jean Rhys’s novel is Antoinette Cosway, a lively, but at the same time rather vulnerable young girl. One of the differences between these novels is that in Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette or Bertha Mason, the first wife of Mr. Rochester is transformed from the so-called “mad woman in the attic” to the positive character. She is a woman who has her hopes, desires and fears. In the novels, both main characters tell their life stories. Both Antoinette and Jane have religious education. In convent, Antoinette says, “I learnt to say very quickly as the others did, “offer up all the prayers, works and sufferings of this day.” But what about happiness, I thought at first, is there no happiness? There must be. Oh happiness, of course, happiness, well. But I soon forgot about happiness” (Rhys 56).  One more difference is that Bertha in the novel Jane Eyre is a character who has no history and personality, while in the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, she is transformed into a live person with her problems, and happiness. The reason for the fact that she becomes insane at the end of the novel Wide Sargasso Sea is concluded not in her evil nature, but in the destructive relationships with others and her transportation from hot Jamaica to cold England. In Bronte’s novel, the author discusses many important themes, such as the theme of child’s maturation, the theme of morality, the theme of isolation, the theme of gender relations, and the theme of love and passion. Jane is represented as a protagonist who is strong and self-confident. However, she is very sensitive. The author describes Jane’s state of mind after the wedding to Rochester, “A Christmas frost had come at mid-summer: a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hay-field and corn-field lay a frozen shroud . . . and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead”¦” (Bronte 148).  In Rhys’s novel, the author comes to the conclusion that Mr. Rochester just used his loving wife Bertha, and then he discarded her, when he took her from the land she loved and knew well, and left her vulnerable and mentally exhausted in the foreign country.

Besides, there are certain differences in settings of the novels. In Jane Eyre, the author pays special attention to the role of setting. Jane spends her childhood at Gateshead Hall, where she lives with her relatives. Then she moves to Thornfield Hall where she meets Mr. Rochester. Then she settles at Moor House where Jane obtains freedom and independence. The events in the novel Wide Sargasso Sea are set in Jamaica which was a British colony at that time. According to the novel, the events take place after Britain passed the Emancipation Act of 1833.  In the second part of the novel Wide Sargasso Sea, the events are moved to Granbois, which is the Cosway estate outside Massacre, Dominica. In the end of the novel, the main character finds herself at Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester’s home. It is known that the novel Wide Sargasso Sea “has been read as a novel about colonization, racial conflict, and the corrupting quality of money” (Deneke 19).

In addition, there are certain differences in the style of writing of these novels. Charlotte Bronte’s style of writing is rather florid in comparison with the style of writing of Jean Rhys. Bronte’s style is full of emotions and highly expressive, while Jean Rhys’s style is more mellifluous and in some cases even punchy. Besides, there are different ways to represent events in the novels. The novel Wide Sargasso Sea seems to be more fast-paced with numerous episodes, however Bronte’s novel consists of many descriptions, including the surroundings, people, feelings, etc. (Deneke 79).

My personal story is similar to the stories of Jane and Antoinette. I am 23. I can find some common characteristics, such as great desire to be independent in this world, and love for freedom. I came to the United States from Egypt when I was 16. Today I am the citizen of the United States and I am proud of this fact. I have an opportunity to compare two countries, two settings in my life story as well as the main characters of the novels, Jane and Antoinette.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that both novels Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre describe the fates of young women in the 19th century, and represent a historical value as these literary works give an opportunity to learn more about the history of England and Jamaica. Besides, these novels are educative as they teach the readers to be strong and independent in this world and be ready to cope with any difficulty on the way. The main characters help to reveal the best qualities of character and to value life.

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