Posts Tagged ‘The Third Part’

A analytical summary of Jean Rhys’ best novel in l

A analytical summary of Jean Rhys’ most successful novel in line with the first Mrs. Rochester (referred to as Bertha Mason in Charlotte Brontë’s novel) of Jane Eyre.

Giving voice towards the mysterious first wife of Rochester in Jane Eyre is probably very difficult task. Within this acclaimed prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Dominican born author Jean Rhys gave voice to Bertha Mason, as she’s known in Jane Eyre.

Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966 as a Post-colonial parallel novel and elevated Rhys to much greater literary fame almost 3 decades after her previous novel Good Morning, Midnight, published in 1939. It became her best novel. The story follows Antoinette Cosway – Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre – a white Creole heiress, through childhood within the Caribbean to her unsuccessful and unhappy marriage to Mr. Rochester and eventual re-location to England. Caught in an oppressive patriarchal society, Antoinette is unable to squeeze into either of the societies – white Europeans nor the black Jamaicans. The novel re-imagines Brontë's devilish madwoman within the attic.

The novel opens soon after the 1833 emancipation from the slaves of the British-owned Jamaica. The protagonist from the novel, Antoinette, narrates her story of her childhood in Jamaica and her marriage to an unnamed Englishman (it may be inferred that it is Rochester from Jane Eyre) and relocation to England. As the novel and their relationship progresses, Antoinette slowly descends into madness and it is renamed Bertha by Rochester.

Tripartite Structure

The novel is segregated into three parts:

More on this topic

    Doubling and Madness in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso SeaCharlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Bertha MasonJean Rhys Biography

    The First Part is narrated by Antoinette describing her childhood in Coulibri, Jamaica and touches on several facets of her lifetime, including her mother's mental instability and her mentally disabled brother's tragic death.

    The Second Part is narrated alternately between her husband and Antoinette following their marriage and it is set in Granbois, Dominica.

    The Third Part is the shortest and is told in the perspective of Antoinette, who is now known as Bertha. This section happens in England, in Rochester’s mansion. She is kept in the attic and this section aligns with Brontë’s novel. Antoinette describes this house as the ‘Great House’.


    Rhys employs using multiple voices – Antoinette, Rochester and Grace Poole – to inform the storyline and heavily intertwines her novel with Jane Eyre. Rhys constitutes a post-colonial argument that Antoinette's husband's eventual rejection of Antoinette is because of her Creole heritage (a sizable factor in Antoinette's descent into madness).

    Jane Eyre and Antoinette – As Characters

    The characters Jane Eyre and Antoinette are extremely similar. Both are independent, vivacious, imaginative ladies with troubled childhoods, educated in religious establishments and looked recorded on through the upper classes — and, of course, both of them marry Mr Rochester. However, Antoinette is more rebellious and much more mentally unstable than Jane. She displays an alarming view of morbidity and as in opposition to Jane, Antoinette has cynical view of God and religion.