The Creole is of course the important one, the others explain her. . . . Take a look at Jane Eyre. That unfortunate death of a Creole! I'm fighting mad to write her story. [Letters, 157]

Veronica Marie Gregg uses these wonderful sentences from Rhys as an epigraph to her second chapter, “The 1840s to the 1900s: The Creole and the Postslavery West Indies.” As she shows, Rhys, who apparently had never read major authors including “Balzac, Proust, Fielding, Trollope, George Eliot, James, Conrad, [and] Joyce,” certainly read Charlotte Brontë and, perhaps surprisingly, had what she termed “a great and deep admiration for the Brontë sisters. How then,” she asked, “can I of all I people, say [Charlotte Brontëe] was wrong? Or that her Bertha is impossible? Which she is” (271) — "an impossible monster" she called her in one of her letters (82).

As Gregg points out, the creator of Jane Eyre was also dissatisfied with the character of Bertha Mason, though not for the reasons that Rhys was. Rhys, apparently wanting to read an entirely different novel, wanted Bertha at center stage. Charlotte Brontëe, on the other hand, believed she had made her too much into a figure of horror: "Profound pity ought to be the only sentiment elicited by the view of such degradation and equally true that I have not sufficiently dwelt on that feeling: I have erred in making horror too predominant" (qtd. 83 from Thorpe, "Other Side," 101). Rhys, wanting a different novel, wrote one which creates a much fuller picture of the madwoman in the attic.

Bibliography

Gregg, Veronica Marie. Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination: Reading and Writing the Creole. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995.


Victorian Overview Neo-Victorian sitemap Jean Rhys