Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday, February 27, 2021 2:42 am by M. in ,    No comments
A new scholar paper on Wide Sargasso Sea:
The Predicament of the ‘White Cockroach’: The Paradoxes of Belonging in Wide Sargasso Sea
Animesh Biswas
Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
Vol 1. No.1 January- June 2021

Abstract

Neo-Victorian studies is not identified clearly as academic studies. Neo-Victorianism reflects our ongoing attitude towards Victorian literature and culture. It reveals the past in which women were presented as peripheral. Neo-Victorian literature criticizes Victorian culture through postmodern angle. The development of Neo-Victorian literature as an academic discipline can be seen as a response to a particular time or place historically remote to us. Neo-Victorianism got support as early as in the 1960s with the publication of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969). Wide Sargasso Sea by Rhys is the popular adaptation of Victorian literature. Adaptation is a polyphonic practise involving “both memory and change, persistence and “(Hutcheon). Neo-Victorian adaptation challenges Victorian construction of empire, gender, and sexuality. Through Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys adapts Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre criticizing the ideas and ideologies of the past represented in the text. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar consider Bertha Rochester as the ‘veiled’ sexual self of Jane. Rhys brings out the problem of sexual repression into the open. Antoinette’s madness is the result of her sexual castration and lack of adequate human interaction. Rhys takes her heroine Antoinette from the marginalised position and makes her appear most prominent. While doing so Rhys remodels Bertha and offers Antoinette a centralized role rather marginalized. Jean Rhys’ articulation of race in Wide Sargasso Sea is a very complex one as the issue is intrinsically tangled with gender, class, and national identities. The novel which portrays Creole Jamaican society at a moment of crisis presents a unique web of colour, culture, and hierarchical power relations. Colour that is consciousness of skin presented as a metaphor for social construction of race. It is woven with the question of gender and national identity. Whites born in England are distinguished from white Creoles, descendants of Europeans who have lived in the West Indies for one or more generations. There is a large mixed-race population, as white slave owners throughout the Caribbean and Americans were notorious for raping and impregnating female slaves. However, the central character Antoinette based on the mad woman Bertha from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is involved in a greater paradox. Though one steep removed from racial oppression this white Creole woman is bestowed with fragmented identities and an unconscious fear of belonging. An exile within her own family a ‘white cockroach’ to her disdainful servants and an oddity in the eyes of her own husband Antoinette never finds a place that belongs to her and to which she belongs. The historical circumstance that dominates the novel is the Emancipation Act of 1833 that freed all slaves in the British colonies and the racial conflicts, social upheaval and economic turmoil that surround it. I would like to explore the predicament of the white Creole woman who is an outcaste and rejected by both Europe and England whose blood she shares and by the Black West Indian people whose culture and home have been her for two generation or more.

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