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Imperialism & Colonialism in The Novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

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It should be impossible to read a nineteenth-century British literature like Jane Eyre without considering the notions of Imperialism and Colonialism. In that age, both of them were crucial and a part of England’s image not only to the British people, but also to the rest of the world.(Spivak, 1985)

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As a result of that, the works of people were affected as well, such as literature in this case where Bronteportrays Bertha a woman from the “third world” Caribbean islands as “mad” and uses her as a tool in order to assist Jane Eyre who is an English woman.However, Bronte is not ignorant of Colonialism, since she uses it in all her major novels.In Shirley and Villette the two heroines of her two novels are in love with men who desire to immigrate in the colonies and marry with foreign women from there.In Jane Eyre Bertha’s is presented as a native and gives individuality to the white Jane through the difference of her color, whereas in Wide Sargasso Sea Bertha is a white Creole rather than a native. There are several differences through the two women even though they are the same character. (Meyer, 1990)

Rhys chose to re-write the novel from the perspective of Antoinette/Bertha, since she felt that Bronte undermined the whole character, a character who had the same origins as herself and that was “offending” for her race as well. As a result she created a relationship that is intensed with desire and marked by deep tragedy.

For readers of Jane Eyre the name bertha comes highly changed it I the name of female madness . Madness signified anger and therefore protest. Bertha is described as “voracious sexualized monster” Henry Maudsley described the woman as a “raging fury of lust”. Mr Rochester confineddue to her illness in a sort of morale quarantine : Mr Rochister does not wish to be contaminated and he locks her up in the attic since the medical men had also pronounced her as mad. That means that she had been shut up. She is shut up and never tells her own story while Rochester’s narrative is presented as stable reinforcing his own position as rational Western Subject.Madness in wide Sargasso seas thus marks the woman’s capitalion to the narratives of others the beginning of her dawningbelief that words are no use , I know that I know” (135).

Giving up words means giving up battlefield to the Rochester figure’s representations, which will come to stand as universal. When Antoinette comes, madly to participate fully in her renaming as Bertha Mason by carrying out the expected ending in which she burns her husband’s ancenstra home we cannot help but think of the parrot on fire at the beginning of the novel who falls from the rooftop of another burning house, Antoinette’s childhood home, crying in mimicry the words “Qui est la”? (Caminero-Santangelo, 1998)

Charlotte Bronte created a character Bertha Mason who has in the last two decades become one of the major characters of English fiction. Bertha is the menacing form of Jane’s resistance to male authority, her fear of that sexual surrender which will seal her complete dependence in passion. She is of West Indian origin,and a Creole. As a member of the colonial nouveauxriches she is considered to be inferior to England’s old families; as a daughter of a former slave-owning plantation-owner she is living a reminder of the sordid origins of his affluence.Bertha tearing the wedding veil and leaning over Jane’s bed is seen as a fantasy of sexual violation. The need to protect Jane is felt by both Rochester and Jane.

Bertha is both Rochester’s dark shadow and opposite and also a double of Jane. Apart from that Bertha is also Jane’s Oedipal rival, preventing her from marrying Rochester (Lerner, 1989). That means that she is the obstacle in both Rochester’s and Jane’s happiness.In Wide Sargasso Sea Antoinette suffers a childhood without protection and an adulthood of cultural and gender oppression . Rochester is the colonizer and she is the colonized. The Wide Sargasso Sea restores the voices of the victimized by historical silences. In so doing, they fix the cultural oppositions and sexual imbalances Rhys discerns.

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They treat characters’ identifications as essentially dissimilar and stable, and establish antithetical (even hostile) divisions among them.(Meyer, 1990) is incarcerated in a house which her own money has been used to buy, by the man who has married her on a basis of crass, mercenary motives. Rochester’s erosion of Antoinette’s identity started early in his insistent renaming of her as “Bertha”. Initially, Edward goes often to Antoinette’s bathing pool, finding there “an alien, disturbing, secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I’d find myself thinking, ‘What I see is nothing — I want what it hides — that is not nothing. His early hopes and promises, to Antoinette, of “happiness” in this inauspicious marriage.

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