A young female landowner in 1840s Jamaica marries a just-arrived Englishman to avoid losing her property. All seems to be perfect, love arises, and happiness is on the way, but she is ...
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Ana Cristina Cesar,
Armando Freitas Filho
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A young female landowner in 1840s Jamaica marries a just-arrived Englishman to avoid losing her property. All seems to be perfect, love arises, and happiness is on the way, but she is hiding an old secret regarding her childhood and her mother. Slowly, this secret begins to erode this perfect relationship and, perhaps, her mother's story will begin again...with her. Written by
Luis Carvacho <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to study website Shmoop, "[Source novelist] Jean Rhys first read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre in 1907, when she arrived in England as a teenager. As a native of the Caribbean herself, she was 'shocked' by Brontë's portrayal of Bertha Mason, Rochester's Creole wife who was locked up in the attic (Rhys 1999: 144). Nearly fifty years later, Rhys turned the story of Brontë's 'madwoman in the attic' into a full-length novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, which pretty much established Rhys as one of the greatest novelists in the twentieth century . . . Wide Sargasso Sea also alters the historical setting of Jane Eyre by pushing the chronology up almost thirty years later in order to take advantage of another foundational moment in Jamaican history, the abolition of slavery in 1834. Setting the novel during this tumultuous period enables Rhys to situate the figure of the white Creole woman in the complex of shifting race relations under British colonial rule". See more »
I think that there seem to be some confusion expressed in a number of the reviews of this and a subsequent version of Jean Rhys' most famous novel. Just for information:
1. Creole does not necessarily imply mixed race. Bertha (to use Rochester's name for her) was clearly white enough to appear white and indeed, like Jean Rhys herself, may have been entirely of European ancestry. The mixed race brother, Daniel, was black on his mother's side which has nothing to do with Bertha's mother being mostly/entirely French. He was angry and destructive because his father preferred the white daughter to him.
2. The Wide Sargosso Sea is a sort of prequel but it is also a re-imagining of the back story for Jane Eyre that is intended to take Bertha's character and expand on it with Rhys inability to ever fully reconcile herself to the differences between her origins and life in Europe.
3. While we think of the Caribbean as a dominantly black environment, the origins were Carib Indian and whites colonized the area before the introduction of African slaves. The racial undertone is a more modern view than Bronte likely had. She was trying to deal with the whole idea of foreignness/strangeness and the ultimate solution to the plight of Jane's situation, poor but of "gentle" birth.
4. Of the two filmed versions, the first makes the characters too physically attractive and really misses the novel's stress on the protagonists never meshing rather than loving and losing love.
5. One problem with the casting of Rochester in the first version is that the actor portraying Rochester is distractingly gorgeous and not sufficiently British (apart from his accent). In fact he looks like he rather fits in, in contrast to Bertha's uncle and the other European planters. Of course, the actress who portrays Bertha, even at the end, is so enticing that Rochester's loss of interest is inexplicable.
6. The first film seems to run out of time and rushes the end. Not enough is made of Rochester's anger at being manipulated, whether by voodoo, drugs or circumstances. Once he becomes his father's heir, the return to England should have led to something other than the conclusion. There is definitely insufficient deterioration in Bertha. Their stories are mirror images. He deteriorates and is miserable where she is able to live and she deteriorates where he is able to live.
7. The novels (both Jane Eyre and The Wide Sargosso Sea) have a great deal of narration which is lost in the earlier film and perhaps insufficient in the second. None of the films are substitutes for the books but all are interesting reimaginings.
8. In order to appreciate the Rhys novel, one should read about the author. The same is true of Jane Eyre and its author. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Finally, while not great, the films both aspire to be literary, which means a lot in an age when filmmakers think there is a need for horror/splatter movies and lots of people apparently agree so I for one say thank you for both versions of the Wide Sargosso Sea and all of the versions of Jane Eyre that offer relief from the current tripe.
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