Jean Rhys Reading Week discussion

Wide Sargasso Sea
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Wide Sargasso Sea

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message 1: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Discuss Jean Rhys' fifth novel Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)


message 2: by Amy (last edited Sep 13, 2016 04:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Vickers | 4 comments The aspect of Wide Sargasso Sea that appealed to me the most was the questions Rhys raises about madness. What makes someone mad? What is the community’s role in a case of madness?

And even, how does one become mad? Everyone seems to come to the conclusion that it’s hereditary, but seem to be pushing Antoinette towards madness throughout the whole novel.

It seems as if the only character from “our” world is Mr. Rochester himself. He’s kind of the straight man in world that turns on “madness.” In this world, people fear witches, turn rumor into truth, and are heavily superstitious. The environment itself seems to have a mysterious quality. But, instead of bringing order to a “mad” world, he ends up stirring it up more and making it worse.


message 3: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "The aspect of Wide Sargasso Sea that appealed to me the most was the questions Rhys raises about madness. What makes someone mad? What is the community’s role in a case of madness?"

Yes, I felt she was questioning what madness means too. It did feel like characters like Daniel wanted to explain it away saying it was something bad in their family's genes, but Rhys seemed to show in the story how Antoinette's sense of identity was crushed by not fitting in anywhere. It's a powerful way to open up a feeling of empathy for someone many dismissed as simply mad.


message 4: by Eric (last edited Sep 14, 2016 11:51PM) (new)

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
I discuss Wide Sargasso Sea on my blog today and I was particularly struck reading this in relation to Rhys' other books!


Louise (bibliothekla) I just, like a few minutes ago, finished this book. I can't help but feel like Antoinette's "madness" would be so much more easily dealt with somehow in this day & age, what with the availability of psychotherapy + psychotherapeutic drugs and all. It reminds me a bit of Kate Chopin's 'The Awakening', which I read this summer. To be fair, I never particularly cared for Rochester in 'Jane Eyre', but Antoinette's mental illness (?) makes her just that much more sympathetic in my opinion.


message 6: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Vickers | 4 comments Louise,

It is totally possible that Antoinette's "madness" might have been better treated today, and it's possible that it wouldn't have been.

One of the reasons Rhy's commentary on madness was so significant to me is because my mom has serious mental illness. I grew up with the same kinds of fears as Antoinette, along with hearing the same kinds of rumors/speculations about the possibility of inheriting her illness. In some cases, modern treatment helps, yes, but in the 1970s-80s, when I was growing up, many illnesses were still just as mysterious.


message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric Anderson (lonesomereader) | 26 comments Mod
Amy wrote: "One of the reasons Rhy's commentary on madness was so significant to me is because my mom has serious mental illness."

It's heartening to know that in some areas of society mental illness is treated much more sympathetically today. So sad reading how in the time period of WSS it was demonized and hidden away. It makes the mother-daughter relationship of this story particularly poignant.


message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Vickers | 4 comments Absolutely, Eric. There are parts of society where it is possible to talk about mental illness openly. Even though it's small, it's a huge step up.


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