Historical Background of Wide Sargasso Sea. By Malka Hirsch. Wide Sargasso Sea was Written in 1966 by a Dominica born author Jean Rhys. She was born in 1894 and moved to England when she was 16 years old (1910). Upon her arrival Jane Eyre was one of the first novels she read.
By Malka Hirsch
She was born in 1894 and moved to England when she was 16 years old (1910).
Upon her arrival Jane Eyre was one of the first novels she read.Authors background
Rhys always felt cold and removed and imagined that the character Bertha Mason from the novel Jane Eyre must have felt the same.
Rhys had chronic financial difficulties, she was marries three times and two of her husbands spent time in jail. She was also a heavy drinkerRhys’s life difficulties
Since she came from the west indies and had difficulties adjusting in England the story had special significance to her.
Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea as a response to stereotypes informed by Bronte’s nineteenth century English culture and social status.
Rhys’s many difficulties led her to empathize with all kinds of human suffering regardless of the cause.Reasons for writing her Novel
Rhys’s empathy for Bertha/Antoinette leads her to chose Bertha Mason’s ill fated marriage as a perfect subject to explore. Rhys takes the reader deep through her psyche as a way to better understand Bertha/Antoinette and the cause of her madness.
The British Empire formally ruled Jamaica from 1670 as a result of the Treaty of Madrid.
Sugar became a luxury commodity ever since the development of large scale sugar plantations during the 1640’s.
There was a high demand for sugar after the British Empire seized control of the Island.Colonialism in Jamaica
In 1834 the British parliament abolished all forms of slavery in their colonies.
The sudden loss of a large slave population was devastating for the Jamaican economy.
There was a strong feeling of isolation and loneliness that she experienced as a white Creole child in a predominantly black West Indies.Antoinette: Life in the West Indies
One night locals surrounded her house and burnt it down leaving both Antoinette and her mother scarred.
Antoinette was so traumatized that she is forced to go to a convent to recover. On the other hand the extent of the trauma leads her mother to go insane.
Rochester moves to Jamaica to be with her and early on they are happily married.
When Rochester leans about her mother's insanity he distances himself from her and their marriage deteriorates.Antoinette: Marriage to Rochester
Rochester tries to subdue his wife but none of his tactics work, so he decides to take her back to England and lock her in the attic.