Differences between women in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea can cause pain which can lead to tragedies. Throughout both novels; females have had differences with other females, especially when it is between children and maternal figures. Mothers are said to be role models and have unconditional love for their daughters however in these two novels it seems not. In Jane Eyre, irreconcilable differences are presented between Jane and Mrs Reed. Mrs Reed is her auntie but is not blood related. Jane’s real mother died when Jane was very young and so Mrs Reed has raised her but in a very distant and cold hearted way.
In Wide Sargasso Sea Annette is Antoinette’s biological mother but she treats her as an outsider. Antoinette’s life is shaped by her relationship with her mother. She is defined by her. In my extract, Jane is at Gateshead once again but as a mature, young woman. Mrs Reed is at her death bed and has requested to see Jane. She tells Jane to read a letter which is from an uncle from the Eyre side of the family. Mrs Reed has hidden this because of her jealousy towards Jane. Jane questions why she has never seen this letter before. Mrs Reed responds in an aggressive way yet Jane apologises and tries to make things right.
This shows no matter what Jane does Mrs Reed still looks down on her and won’t forgive her. Mrs Reed, still after all this time rejects Jane and Jane still isn’t accepted. Similarly, in the extract I have chosen in Wide Sargasso Sea, Antoinette is also rejected by her mother: Annette. At the beginning of the passage Aunt Cora is looking after Antoinette. Aunt Cora is another motherly figure to her. Antoinette visits her mother with Christophine. She trusts Christophine and only chooses her to visit her mother. She doesn’t feel comfortable with other people but only Christophine.
Christophine is another of Antoinette’s motherly figures. When Antoinette visits her mother she offers a lot of affection but all her mother can think about is her lost child Pierre. Rhys shows Annette pushing Antoinette away and rejecting her physically as well as emotionally. Bronte’s attitude suggests female family relationships are Jealous and hostile. However Rhys’ attitude is that of rejection and the wanting of love and affection. In Jane Eyre, Bronte shows Mrs Reed a little deluded when she is on her death bed. In the extract Mrs Reed says my thoughts deceive me.
I wished to see Jane Eyre, and I fancy a likeness where none exists: besides, in eight years she must be so changed. Mrs Reed is polite when she thinks she is talking to a stranger. Bronte shows us that Mrs Reed cares about what other people think of her and views society as important. After Jane reveals herself, she is no longer polite. Mrs Reed says Is the nurse here? Or is there no one in the room but you? The use of many question shows that Mrs Reed is nervous and wants precise information because she is sufficiently ashamed and she does not want any witnesses to hear the conversation.
She gives no apology to Jane which I regret. She only has personal regret. Well I must get it over. Eternity is before me: I had better tell her. Mrs Reed is speaking her thoughts out loud. It shows that she is no longer in the right state of mind. Go to my dressing-case, open it, and take out a letter you will see there. The use of imperatives shows that there is still dominance in their relationship. There is no politeness now and she expects Jane to listen to her and do what she has instructed her to do. I obeyed her instructions. “Read the letter”, she said. Mrs Reed commands and Jane Obeys.
Mrs Reed is very blunt and forceful. In Wide Sargasso Sea delusion is shown through Annette’s mental health. When Antoinette visits her mother for the very last time, Annette can not control herself thus hurting and flinging her daughter. Rhys also shows love and pain. She held me so tightly that I couldn’t breath and I thought ‘It’s not her’. She doesn’t feel it’s real (sane). Annette would not show this affection. She looked at the door then at me. Annette is looking for Pierre. Confusion is shown. I could not say ‘He is dead’. Those three simple words are too hard for her to say.
She does not want to upset her mother because she cares for her. But I am here, I am here. The repetition shows her desperation for her mothers love. ‘No, no no’ very loudly and flung me from her. The repetition shows that Annette is thinking to herself as well as saying this. It suggests there is aggression in her tone. This is the moment of loss of home and abandonment of sanity and the real world. I fell against the partition and hurt myself. She is rejected by her mother and is her hurt both physically and emotionally. Jane visits Mrs Reed alone.
She is more independent then Antoinette. I had insisted that Christophine must be with me, no one else. She finds comfort and security when Christophine is with her. Christophine is another motherly figure. Antoinette isn’t comfortable with other people. She doesn’t trust them. Rhys shows the irreconcilable differences of with Annette a failed mother. Aunt Cora and Christophine are doing better but still not providing enough to nurture Antoinette’s life. Bronte exposes pride and jealousy in Mrs Reed. I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity.
Mrs Reed says this almost with resentment. The issue remained hidden until it began to torment her. It shows how much she despises Jane. I could not forget your conduct to me, Jane the fury with which you once turned on me; the tone in which you declared you abhorred one the worst of anybody in the world; the unchildlike look and voice with which you affirmed that the very thought of me made you sick. The use of dynamic verbs emphasises Mrs Reed’s feelings. Mrs Reed worries about her moral victory and the togetherness of the family.
You thus started up and poured out the venom of your mind: I felt fear as if an animal that I had struck or pushed had looked up at me with human eyes. Strong imagery is used to express Mrs Reed’s emotions towards Jane and she compares or as if she is an animal. She dehumanises her. And cursed me in a man’s voice. Suggesting it is not normal for females to act that way. This shows that there are differences in the way a woman is expected to behave compared to a man. There is no togetherness in Wide Sargasso Sea. Antoinette is no longer safe around her mother. Annette has to be restrained.
Why you bring the child to make trouble, trouble, trouble? The language used is Patois. Repetition is used to reinforce the point this is a lot of hassle and danger. Trouble enough without that! Suggests there is already a lot of trouble and bad things going on. Rhys shows that appearance was a big importance to women in the society and culture in Wide Sargasso Sea. Will I have a mark on my forehead? Antoinette sounds nervous. This shows that the only value she has learned from Annette is appearances. ‘No, no: She smiled for the first time. Aunt Cora uses repetition for reassuring Antoinette.
Aunt Cora smiles for the first time, suggests Antoinette rarely see’s her smile suggesting there’s been nothing good to smile about. That is healing very nicely. It won’t spoil you on your wedding day. Throughout the novel, women are referred to and linked with weddings. Rhys shows that marriage is an important part of a woman’s life in this type of society. She bent down and kissed me. Aunt Cora gives her affection. ‘Is there anything you want? A cool drink to sip? Aunt Cora looks after her and cares for her. No, Not a drink. Sing to me. She finds her singing more comfortable.
Aunt Cora is a mother figure for a short period. In Jane Eyre, when Mrs Reed tells Jane what she replied to Mr Eyre I wrote to him: I said I was sorry for his disappointment, but Jane Eyre was dead. This shows the viciousness and vindictiveness even after Jane left Gateshead. Mrs Reed is a liar and lacks the religious virtue of repentance. She has created a cover up. Her conscience is racked by guilt. For I raised her and supported her on my arm while she drank. Roles have swapped. The role reversal shows how different it is. I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand with mine.
There is contrast in character. The sweaty and warmth contrast with the coldness. In Wide Sargasso Sea, on her journey to see her mother Antoinette says the dull feeling as we drove along. She sounds emotionless and deadened. She was part of Coulibri, that had gone so she had gone. Rhys shows that she is part of the past and tragedy. This suggests that Antoinette feels like she doesn’t have her mother. I was certain of it. She is confident of her own opinion. We reached the tidy pretty little house. The three simple adjectives show the contrast with Coulibri. Where she lived now (they said).
She may not think this but it is just what other people say about the place. I jumped out of the carriage and ran as fast as I could show the desperation and enthusiasm of her chance to see her mother. Jane presents herself in a very positive life in her own narrative. This is a sense of selective memory implied by Bronte to shows that Jane thinks of herself about the good thing of her and avoids her negatives. Antoinette is presented by Rhys in a more realistic way by showing positives and negatives. In both novels the relationship with the motherly figures is unbalanced and love and affection is wanted but not experienced.