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Written over the course of twenty-one years and published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea, based on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, takes place in Jamaica and Dominica in 1839-45. Textual notes illuminate the novel's historical background, regional references, and the non-translated Creole and French phrases necessary to fully understand this powerful story. Backgrounds includes a wealth of material on the novel's long evolution, it connections to Jane Eyre, and Rhys's biographical impressions of growing up in Dominica. Criticism introduces readers to the critical debates inspired by the novel with a Derek Walcott poem and eleven essays.
Jean Rhys achieved literary fame with her acclaimed novel Wide Sargasso Sea. The novel is a moving and beautiful account of the life of Antoinette Cosway, the fictional character who becomes the madwoman in the attic in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Jean Rhys draws on her childhood memories of the Caribbean to create the magical, dangerous landscape of Wide Sargasso Sea, bringing to life a character who has haunted fiction readers for more than a century. Discussion Questions 1. As a child, Antoinette Cosway wonders why the nuns at the convent do not pray for happiness. When Antoinette and Mr. Rochester arrive at their house after their wedding and journey, they drink a toast with two tumblers of rum punch. Antoinette says, "to happiness." Why does happiness elude her? When is she happy and what happens to those moments of happiness? 2. Antoinette's childhood is heavily overcast by threat. What are the threats from outside her household? What are the threats from within? To whom and to what does she turn for protection? 3. What is the racial situation as Antoinette is growing up? What does it mean that she gets called "white cockroach" and "white nigger"? How well do Antoinette and her mother understand the mindset of recently liberated slaves? What about the outsiders like Mr. Mason and Mr. Rochester? 4. How does Antoinette's experience of her mother's rejection shape her life? Is Antoinette like her mother? Could she have escaped her inherited madness? At what point is it too late? Is she really mad? 5. Sandi, Antoinette's cousin who is black, makes an appearance in each of the three sections of the novel. Were you surprised by Antoinette.