Wide Sargasso Sea is a detailed and intricate portrait of one of Jane Eyre's more one-dimensional characters. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Mason's insanity is hinted to be inherited from her mother. In this passage, her mother shows a loss of self-control, but this instance could not as easily be construed as insanity as Bertha's lack of self-control in Jane Eyre. Her irate words to her husband are inappropriate, but it is debatable whether they are warranted, and whether she still has a sense of right and wrong.

"She left him, she ran away and left him alone to die," said my mother, still whispering. So it was all the more dreadful when she began to scream abuse at Mr. Mason, calling him a fool, a cruel stupid fool. "I told you," she said, "I told you what would happen again and again." Her voice broke, but still she screamed, "You would not listen, you sneered at me, you grinning hypocrite, you ought not to live either, you know so much, don't you? Why don't you go out and ask them to let you go? Say how innocent you are. Say you have always trusted them." [p. 40]

1. What is the difference between Antoinette's mother's insanity and that of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre?

2. What is the difference between the mother and daughter of Wide Sargasso Sea?

3. Is this at all a normal way for a wife to treat her husband in these times?

4. Do these two women fall into any Victorian stereotypes?


Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.

Last modified 19 January 2004