Department of Arts and Humanities, Brac University, Bangladesh
*Corresponding author: Farhana Haque, Department of Arts and Humanities, Brac University, Bangladesh
Submission: September 09, 2017; Published: November 08, 2017
ISSN : 2576-8816Volume2 Issue2
The aim of this paper is to map out aspects of colonialism and embedded colonial spirit in the works of the Nineteenth century British novelists. To do so i have chosen three quintessential english novels, jane austen’s mans field park (1814), charlotte bronte’s jane eyre (1847), and its prequel wide sargasso sea (1966) written by jean rhys. These three novels from three different eras, the romantic period, the victorian period and the postcolonial modern times, therefore illustrated how literature can often be ingrained with supremacist ideologies and it can also be the means of resistance against the forces of colonialism. For example, in the novels jane eyre and mans field park we have seen how the identity of the colonizer was created with the help of the colonial money and how english imperial identity relied on the property earned through the means of slave trade in the caribbean islands. If we trace the history of british imperialism we could see the expansion of british colonies that were parallel with the british concern for a national identity, arising mostly in the eighteenth century. With the colonization of the caribbean islands and other subsequent british satellites, identity within the british empire became even more complex. This reinforced the need for a distinction to be made between the multicultural, colonized british subjects and the racially, culturally and religiously homogenous britons who possessed the coveted “englishness”. Such idea of english superiority found its voice in the narratives of english novels, especially in those which were written during the romantic and the victorian period, primetime for the british imperial conquest. Given my aim of tracing colonial predisposition and resistance through literature i have designed my paper into three segments, each examining one novel. First part of this paper will examine bronte’s jane eyre and the next segment will shed further lights on this novel along with its post colonial counterpart, jean rhy’s wide sargasso sea. These essential segments will analyses the cultural hierarchies present in both texts and will explore the contested nature and meaning of ‘englishness’ throughout the narrative of the colonizer (jane eyre) and the colonized body (wide sargasso sea). While bronte’s text constructed the definition of englishness by juxtaposing english characters against the colonial other, where as rhy’s text will tried to fight against bronte’s cultural hierarchy while simultaneously colluding with the colonial project. The last part of my paper will analyses mansfield park which will take my discussion further on the issues of identity earned by slave trade. This study will discern how the colonial projects can be occupied by the english novels, informs authorial choices and complicates past readings.
Keywords: Colonialism; Post colonialism; Supremacist’s ideologies; Victorian period; Romantic period; Postcolonial modern time
This paper will explore the concept of british’s colonial enterprise throughout the three credible english novels from three different and significant eras of colonial issue. First of all i would like to vignette the british ruler’s anarchy inside of the english literature. Colonization of the caribbean islands and other subsequent british satellites, identity, within the british empire became more nebulous and reinforced the need for distinction to be made between multicultural imperial british subjects and the racially, culturally and religiously homogenous britons who possessed the coveted englishness. Creating this demarcation within the empire also allowed the british to discuss the darker parts of their national history. Suddenly acts like slavery became divorced from an english history that promoted liberation and instead, associated with the creolized population of the caribbean islands, who had forfeited their marks of englishness throughout their colonial contamination. This message actually concerned the superiority and desirability of englishness found a narrative voice in the english novel . The reader can see, beginning in the early 19th century with jane austen and mh thackeray, the impact of imperialism and elevation of the english identity. In mansfield park slavery and imperial conquest became the price one has to pay to maintain one’s claim to be an english person throughout the class distinction and land ownership. Similarly, in vanity fair joseph sadly was reduced to the term “nabob” and his loss of englishness can be seen in his excesses and susceptibility to the creolized becky sharp . According to edward said, english novels, proved immensely important in the formation of imperial attitudes references and experiences. Said did contend against that nations themselves could be viewed as narrowness and with the english novel which basically dominated the literary scene of both britain and its colonies throughout the 19th century. English attributes quickly became the dominant narrative of the entire british empire. As said notes, “never in the novel, in that world beyond seen except as subordinate and dominated, the english presence viewed as regulative and normative.” I will use sad’s theory to examine how englishness was able to reach its elevated status throughout the empire and how it shaped the way that english and colonials viewed themselves within this imposed cultural hierarchy . I will focus not only on citizens of the english metropolis and the formerly enslaved west indian colonials but also the colonial elite. Or former british slave owners and how their connection with the colonials effectively creolized them, usurped their formerly homogenous british identity and negativity for showing claims to their english attributes. Indeed, english attributes as an ideal in the 19th century english novels in a powerful way that it allowed the most unlikely of characters to become the icons and heroines. However for examples, the heroin of charlotte bronte’s celebrated work jane eyre and jane austen’s perennial work mansfield park. In the novel jane eyre, jane was introduced to the reader as being plain and poor. She lamented her own lack of good looks when she first arrived at thorn field and commented on the alienation from handsome men: “i should have known instinctively that they neither have nor could have sympathy with anything in me.” (bronte, 130) . In the novel, it was rochester’s lack of classic features and beauty that emboldened jane to approach him and later fell in love with him. On the other hands rochester’s mad creel wife in the attic created a foil for jane which allows her to occupy the role of english heroin. By juxtaposing the two women throughout the novel bronte engaged in what said described as a strengthening of one party by the comparative weakening of the other. Thus bronte successfully created strong binary between bertha’s creel otherness and jane’s white englishness. While jane was depicted as healthy, chaste, modest english and free, bertha was shown to be mad, blatantly sexual, violent, creel and needing restraint. In the famous unveiling scene in the attic, rochester compared the two women side by side, saying, “compare these clear eyes (jane) with the red balls yonder (bertha). This faces with that mask- this form with that bulk” (bronte, 329) . Bronte’s use of the creel figure has occasioned more literary criticism than any other english text and indispensable in my investigation against the colonization of 19th century’s english novel. Just as jane eyre sets up a narrative of special inclusion where jane and rochester were allowed to exist within the scope of englishness, jean rhy’s wide sargasso sea sets up a narrative of exclusion where characters were attempted to achieve english attributes but continuously fall sort. Thus wide sargasso sea became the creel answer to bronte’s english text, produced a more comprehensive understanding of englishness through the double narrative voice of the colonizer and the colonized that were included and the excluded. Rhy’s then attempted to resist the superiority of english attitudes found in jane eyre by engaging in what home habra described as colonial mimicry. Her novel acted as the prequel for jane eyre, mimicked it in style and genre. She even made antoinette bear striking similarities to jane in regard to her religious education, isolation in society and loss of childhood friends yet, while rhys attempts to mimic but not mirror the english colonial novel in effort to resist its narrow view of englishness and subsequent coding of the other. She simultaneously colluded with very ideas she was trying to resist by depicting antoinette as constantly trying to distinguish herself from the blacks on the island and made herself appear more white, more european, more english, rhys has made her character internalize the cultural hierarchy that valued englishness above all else. Antoinette’s interactions with various racial and ethnic groups of island both unsettle and re-enact many of the common sense structured of english superiority and bring into question whether wide sargasso sea can be considered post colonial at all when the entire promise of the novel was a reaction to the english imperial narrative. Using habra, i have planned to look at wide sargasso sea to discern to what extent the novel illustrates the narrow nests of englishness, condemning its exclusion of hybrid bodies and to what extent its seeks unconsciously perhaps, to complete the project of colonialism. By exploring the role of english attributes of english people played in the creation and formulation of jane eyre and wide sargasso sea a new reading emerged of the texts, which supplements and complicates the feminist readings of critics like sandra gilbert, susan gobat and elaine showalter that have preceded it. We can begin to explore authorial choices, such asbronte’s decision to have a creel madwoman as jane’s foil in jane eyre while gilbert and guar have famously argued in their feminist critique of jane eyre that bertha represented jane’s sexuality that was open and liberated other. A reading through the lens of englishness could suggest that bronte has chosen a creel woman to highlight jane’s englishness and to reinforce the english superiority that was considered normal during the 19th century . Bronte’s decision to keep bertha silent aside from her maniacal laughter did speak more to bronte’s take on empire and its inherent link to a culture of silence than to a feminist reading of female subjugation. Speak also touched upon this culture of silence when she discussed the subaltern as being a position without identity and the inability of an action. She stated that the subaltern can’t represent itself through a narrative voice but has always being represented by others and pushed in to the dominant pre-existing meta narrative in this case, british imperialism. Thus jane and rochester were both given a voice as they represented the meta-narrative of british imperialism history, while bertha was condemned to subalternity and silence. Similarly instead of reading jane’s decision to return to rochester after he has lost his eyesight in the fire as a sign of female control and domination, we could read her decision through bertha’s death as it’s the scars of the colonial experience . Rochester finally got rid of his colonial contagion (bertha) and then became free to marry jane who can perpetuate the imperialist ideals of english superiority through an english wedding and the birth of an unquestionably english son. Antoinette’s madness in wide sargasso sea also became complicated by this reading of englishness as it proposed the idea that antoinette’s madness resulted from a colonial identity crisis and her frustration at not being able to fit within the narrow constructs of english superiority versus her sexual and social subordinations by the male. In the same way rochester attempted to control antoinette’s sexuality which could be read as having less to do with simple misogyny and more to do with policing the boundaries of the english identity by preventing the conception of creole figure that would falsely pass for english. Finally madness itself can be viewed differently through a social versus medical construct when one’s considers that expressing an open sexual appetite was so abhorrent a quality in Englishmen . This encoding of physical disease with social values as it concerned the colonies. Besides the novel jane eyre, i would discuss another famous novel written by jane austen. Mansfield park which was about landed property and adventures at sea. It is about centres of domesticity and waves of influence and authority. In mansfield park, the stability, order and harmony of the bertram estate in england were set off against the tempests tossed seas sir thomas bertram navigated on his journey to antigua where he did capture substantial property. In austen’s time, an english reader would have had no difficulty grasping the fact that property in england such as mansfield park was maintained by the labour of the natives of a plantation in the antigua. Historically they thought that britain would have been at the centre of the creole of influence, power and authority. While antigua would have been seen as the insignificant other and therefore marginal significance. Fanny who was the only character in the novel who asked a question about the slave trade. She got no answer and austen left it at that. She was disturbed yet timid and was having the lacking the energy and urgency to pursue that very important question. Fanny’s question created pause, a momentary silence in the conversation but it did not disturb the harmony of the domestic circle of which she was a part when her cousin, edmund pointed out to fanny who was too silent in the evening circle”, she asserted, referring to sir thomas bertram, “but i do not talk to him more than i used . I am sure i do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night” (austen, 198). She was kept on to say how she had longed to ask her uncle more question, but had been” such a dead silence” (austen, 198) following her question about the slave trade. Sir thomas’s inability or unwillingness to answer fanny’s question provided an ironic contrast to his general interest in talking at great length about the west indies. It is the ownership of progeny in the west indies that made possible the domestic comforts and tranquillity of the family gathered around sir thomas, listening to his stories about faraway lands. As fanny told edmund “the evenings do not appear long to me. I love to hear my uncle talk of the west indies . I could listen him for an hour” (austen, 197). She also observed of her uncle that “the repose of his own family circle is all he wants” (austen, 196). Questions about colonization and slave trade surely would disturb such repose. Austen thus left us with the comic awareness that though fanny can see more, she did not go beyond a certain point instead she accepted the silence and did not force it to have meaning if she did, she would have to go against her habitually timid nature to challenge the unpleasant truth implied by the silence. A rebellious, outspoken fanny would have to be a character in a very different novel. If fanny were to question the silence, she would also question the foundations of mansfield park. As a rebel, she would reject any participation in a social order and domestic stability based on injustice, oppression and the harsh truths of antiguan property taken over in the name of civilization, patriotism, nationalism and glorious glories of the empire . It was a part of austen’s ironic design that fanny, who stood at the moral centre of the novel, should ask the question about slavery even though the pertinent question was left unanswered, hanging, incomplete. Austen thus teased the reader with a contradiction and has chosen to leave it unresolved simply because she can’t resolve it. Edward said has seen austen’s reference to the slave trade as being morally neutral. Austen wrote at a historical and cultural moment when as said did remind us there is no language for the continuation of such a conversation. But she did disturb the surface in her characteristics vein and then quickly restored order and harmony. Finally as austen proceeded to wrap up the novel’s happy ending, fanny married edmund, sir thomas recognized his faults, the stable home of mansfield park was stronger than ever in its values and occupants, but the spreading seas of influence and empire building lied outside the boundaries of her novel which emphasised the strong colonial attitudes through her text mansfield park.
The prominent issues of the characters jane eyre and bertha mason/ antoinette about how they were presented in the novels jane eyre and wide sargasso sea. After going into the main theme of both the novels, it has been gradually visible of their importance related to colonial issue. How the character jane eyre has got the position of colonizer and bertha mason/ antoinette uphold the identity of colonial other .
In the previous segments of this paper i have discussed about an idea of cultural hierarchy that british could both dominate and control. In culture and imperialism “fortified each other to such a degree that it is impossible to read one without in some and way dealing with the other”. Through these lines it’s clear that, british identity becomes a major theme of many nineteenth century british novels. As british began to colonize the west indies, india and australia, thus the english narrative spread and became the dominant cultural narrative throughout the british empire . Narratives of british thought we had a right to own the land which we have acquired against the non-european inhabitants and we had a right to rule over it. The english narratives strongly asserted the metro pole’s superiority and constructed a hierarchy with englishness at the top of it and ensure their dominance throughout the empire. The cultural hierarchy can be seen in canonical nineteenth century british novels such as mansfield park and vanity fair, where the colonial world has been seen as dominated over their subordinate subjects and they viewed themselves as regulative and normative. Here comes the question of english normative and the colonial ‘other’ which we can see in british author’s writings. Charlotte bronte employed this strategy in her choice of bertha, the novel’s anti heroin, as a west indian creole woman. As gianni discussed in “maps of englishness”, english novels can assert their characters legitimacy as english by holding them up to the colonial other for comparison, highlighting their difference and lateritic, and thereby asserting their englishness. In jane eyre, bronte has done theses up of a dichotomy whereby jane’s englishness is enhanced by bertha’s otherness. In bronte’s comparison of bertha and jane, she focused on six main areas of differences, firstly appearance, secondly health, thirdly liberty, then violence, after that religious perspectives and finally sexuality. Following those main areas of differences of englishness and otherness, i must say that bronte decided to go on and thus depicted bertha as an animal when she described her attack on rochester, saying, “the lunatic sprang and grappled his threat viciously and laid her teeth into his cheek”. (bronte, 328) by portraying bertha as sub-human, bronte effectively diminished the reader’s pity for her as an imprisoned woman, instead of making them view her as a beast with no entitlement to english ideals of liberty. Once bertha was effectively dehumanized, she casted into the role of impediment instead of victim. She was all that who stood between rochester and jane’s culturally sanctioned union. Bertha was neither entirely english nor entirely human, jane can continue to love rochester and withhold sympathy for bertha, without appearing un-christian and consequently un-english. In bronte’s description of bertha it is implicit that, bertha was taint of colonial disease and aberration. As alan bowell discussed in his work, jane eyre and victorian medical geography, bronte refused “to separate question of spiritual or national well-being from question of health and mobility”. Imperial medical geography did set out to elevate england as a metropolis by showing that disease came from other places on the globe, particularly the west and east indies. Medical geography thus played a large role in determining which places were healthy and which places needed to be improved. Moral and ideological values p, such as liberty, purity and normality were expressed through a country’s climate and medical pathologies. Now i can proceed towards the physical superiority of jane than bertha. English moral superiority over another culture or race could be seen through their physical repulsion, immune response to that location. Similarly the depravity of diseased colonial spaces was evidenced in their ability to contaminate healthy english bodies. Therefore it’s sure that the english people usually show smug towards another culture or locality. This colonial disease can be seen in richard mason whom jane recognized immediately as being not altogether english and described as sallow-faced and vulnerable to chills (bronte, 215-216). In wide sargasso sea, antoinette’s aunt cora leaves the islands because of her poor health and returns to england for a year. Cora’s exposure to the west indies has contaminated her, so that she fears that another english winter will kill her (rhys, 31- 33). Bertha’s mania too can be seen as an indication of her moral inferiority manifested through her physical deterioration and discolorations. This interpretation seems especially salient when one compares descriptions of bertha’s health with jane’s thriving existence at thorn field. In jane eyre, the english heroin jane also showed her disgust towards bertha, she said, “it was a discoloured face, it was a savage face, i wish i could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments” (bronte, 317). Here it can be said that, bertha’s discoloration in her blackened and inflated lineaments implied colonial sickness and contamination. However, while bertha’s physical appearance deteriorated as the novel progresses, jane’s health got improved. Upon first arriving at thorn field, jane goes on to walk-in the english countryside and described as having unblemished savage (bronte, 114). Here this unblemished savage means bertha’s uncivilized appearance. As her relationship with rochester transform from that of master servant to mutual friendship and respect, jane reflects “the blanks of existence were filled up, my bodily health improved; i gathered flesh and strength “(bronte, 166). By all her comments now it’s almost vivid that, jane herself knew about her english health which will be compromised in a colonial world. When rochester revealed his colonial diseased wife to jane after their wedding ceremony was interrupted, jane fled from thorn field and was taken in by the rivers family. There she met widths. John rivers, later discovered to be one of her cousins, and earned his respect as a suitable christian woman and potential missionary wife. When st. John proposed to jane, asking her to follow him to india to spread christianity within the british colony, she was immediately terrified. Jane’s fear of leaving england, as she asserted that, “if i go to india, i go to a premature death” (bronte, 450). Here jane’s this saying proved her true englishness, how much she felt comfortable to be in england, no matter she is in sad or gloomy state or not, the main happiness lied to live in english with all her english attributes. That’s why when she had got to know about leaving england she hot scared. St. John’s sister also agree that jane’s delicate english constitution “would not live three months there as she would surely fall victim to colonial disease and eventually death (bronte, 462). By making it impossible for jane to leave the metropolis for the british colonies, bronte confirmed jane’s purely english constitution and moral superiority over diseased bertha. In jane eyre, bronte constructed connection between physical debility and moral weakness and expanded the connection to the political arena, highlighting the way bertha and jane respond to oppression. As edmund bunk stated in his writings on the french revolution, the english citizen’s inherent right to freedom stemmed from history: you will observe that, from magna charta to the declaration of right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert out liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom. Therefore, while jane can assert her independence and throw off her oppressions such as the reed family, antoinette can’t because her hybrid identity as creoles excludes her from this history of inherited rights. And here we can see the main point of discrimination of bertha than jane. In both texts, jane eyre and wide sargasso sea the reader encountered of liberty for jane and moments of imprisonment for berth/antoinette. Jane voices her desire for liberty while at logwood, saying, “i desired liberty; for liberty i gasped; for liberty i uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered in the wind then faintly blowing” (bronte, 99). By acting rationally, jane was able to place an ad in the local newspaper, acquired new position as a governess at thorn field, and ultimately her desired freedom from logwood. On the other hands, antoinette can be successfully imprisoned by rochester in a room on the third floor of thorn field; rochester cannot force jane to stay once as she would abletodiscoverhis disastrous marriage. Here rochester played the role of indicator who can show the difference between jane and berth. In the final chapter of wide sargasso sea antoinette recalls offering all she has to rochester in exchange for her freedom and being denied (rhys, 115). However, jane never needs to ask rochester to release her, and instead is described as a resolute, wild, free thing that leaves without his knowledge (bronte, 357). How english freedom paved its way in jane eyre that we would able to understand through rochester’s attitudes. In wide sargasso sea rochester is able to escape his miserable marriage to antoinette by lacking her in a “cardboard world” (rhys, 115) where he can wait for the day when she is only a memory to be avoided, locked away, and like all memories a legend or a lie” (rhys, 113). Being an english gentleman rochester had no resistance of doing heedless deeds in his life. He was able to live life of a bachelor, roaming europe and taking mistresses, while disowned both his wife and their marriage. Jane was similarly able to escape from her awkward and unhappy situation at thorn field after her illegitimate marriage to rochester was halted. However, in jane eyre bertha was given an opportunity to liberate herself from her imperial oppressor rochester except through her final act of suicide in the novel. Even when antoinette was still at her estate, françois, she cannot follow christophine’s advice and escape to martinique or england because she has forfeited her fortune to her husband (rhys, 69). Unlike rochester, for whom england is a haven while on the other hands, for antoinette england seemed like a prison rather than a refuge. Not only did antoinette lose her freedom in england, but she also did lose her voice. As gianni points out, “empire equals domination and a culture of silence; nation equals freedom and the culture of liberation”. It is to be noted that, in jane eyre, bertha and richard mason can be seen as colonial subjects. Bronte enacted gianni’s dichotomy, provided an english national narrative which was expressed only through the voices and as speak explained in her discussion of the subalterns, can be represented only through the description of others who fall within the english meta-narrative, never herself. Bertha’s effective silencing of the subaltern identity was coupled with rochester’s silencing of the colonial body once again gianni’s dichotomy was enacted as rochester’s national identity allowed him to dominate mason, made him silent and did also warn “richard it will be at peril of your life if you speak to her open your lips-agitate yourself-and i’ll not answer for the consequences” (bronte, 236). Bertha and mason’s forced colonial silence was necessary to suppress the threat of a subaltern discourse, which could challenge the authority of rochester’s narrative of victimized englishman and consequently the sanctity of rochester’s english union. Bronte’s text justified restraining bertha by pointing out her own lack of restraint, in regard to both violence and sexuality, and her excesses once again enhanced jane’s englishness. During the nineteenth century. One mark of englishness won control over passion and aversion to physical violence. Of all the forms of physical violence, the use of the knife was considered the most primitive and uncivilized by the english courts system. In jane eyre, bertha was not a woman who only exhibited the repeated violence against mr. Rochester and richard mason, but she employed a knife as her weapon proving her lack of civilization (bronte, 239). Bertha’s violent revolt also alluded to the result in the west indies that the english were so terrified of during the nineteenth century. Her narrative functions as slave narrative within the text as she was taken from her native home by the white european colonizer, travelled on her own middle passage from jamaica to england, and was enslaved in thorn field by her colonial oppressor. Bertha’s position as colonial other was once again reinforced when she enacted a slave rebellion similar to the burning of calibri by former slaves in wide sargasso sea, did set fire to thorn field while the colonial master was sleeping inside. By making bertha’s narrative mirror as a slave narrative. Bertha’s excessive sexuality also made her perfect foil to demonstrate jane’s englishness by making bertha a west indian creole, bronte invoked prevalent stereotypes of nineteenth century britain, which characterized colonial women as intemperate and unchaste- terms rochester used to describe bertha in jane eyre. In wide sargasso sea, rochester described antoinette as being provocatively sexual, “sometimes a side long look or a sly knowing glance disturbed me, but it was never for long” (rhys, 54). Rhy’s antoinette was in direct opposition to bronte’s jane, who refused to be rochester’s mistress, regardless of the broken state of his marriage and despite her passionate love for him. Even during their engagement, “jane shows extreme sexual restraint not allowing rochester to touch her, pamper her, or even compliment her (bronte, 307). The self discipline which jane possessed and antoinette’s lacking were one of the quintessential qualities of englishness during victorian era. While rochester criticized antoinette for being emotionally transparent in wide sargasso sea and didn’t conceal her feeling as he has learned to do jane was adept at hiding her emotions. She was even able to discipline herself into not showing her attraction to mr. Rochester; “i had reason to congratulate myself on the course of wholesome discipline to which i had forced my feelings to submit” (bronte, 184). Jane’s self restraint allowed her to protect her untainted body, while antoinette’s reportedly promiscuous behaviour pollutes her colonial body- signifying jane’s english moral superiority to antoinette’s moral and physical degradation. Thus jane’s self-control and bertha’s lack of restraint in regard to sexuality demonstrated jane’s englishness and bertha’s otherness. Jean rhy’s postcolonial answer to jane eyre opposed bronte’s construction of bertha as other to english superiority. But her own project was complicated because of her ideological contradictions. These contradictions within rhy’s work were a product of her own confusion as to the nature of englishness. Written in 1966 after her repatriation wide sargasso sea in many ways served as rhy’s own colonial narrative. The demonstration of the narrow confines of englishness which allowed rhys to be a british imperial subject but never an english domestic citizen. Rhys described how the confines of englishness manifest themselves among the domestic english population in her journal. She wrote from her very own experience: i soon discovered the peculiarly smug attitude which made them quite sure that, i was in some way inferior if i said i was english, they at once contradicted me or implied contradictions. No a colonial you’re not english inferior being. My mother says colonials aren’t ladies and gentlemen, etc. If on the other hand i’d say exasperated, “all right then i’m not english as a matter of fact i’m not a bit. I’d much rather be french or spanish. They’d get even more amazed at that. I was a traitor. You’re british they’d say neither one thing nor the other. Heads you win tails, i lose and i never liked their voices any better than they liked mine. Rhys inability to claim a solid national identity was reflected both in her depiction of antoinette as a hybrid character and the implicit contradictions found within her discussion of englishness. In wide sargasso sea, rhys did fight against troops of englishness using what home habra terms “colonial mimicry” and colluded with the colonial project by using black characters as props to the creole identity” just as bronte used the creole as a prop to the english identity. Throughout the novel, rhys reflected the social hierarchy the british imposed upon the west indies by displaying her protagonist antoinette’s constant, attempts to achieve englishness. Here also in post colonial writing we can see the importance of english attributes taught by the british. It seems they spell bound the colonial subjects who are under their subjugation. From the beginning of the novel rhys depicted antoinette as a person who got the lacks a sense of belonging, due to a destructive racism that separates her socially from the caribbean black population and epistemologically from the european white population. Although antoinette enjoyed behaving like an english girl, eating traditional english beef and mutton, she acknowledges that “it is only a facade as she truly craves christophine’s spicy west indian cooking (rhys, 16). Antoinette’s aberration from english tastes signified her physical and cultural difference from the domestic english body as the creole food she was chosen to ingest came to symbolize her creole otherness. Mr. Mason for his part cannot understand antoinette and her mother’s lateritic, attempted to claim them for english elite while both were self- admittedly “so without a doubt not english” (rhys, 16). The impossibility of complete english assimilation is self-evident to the cosway woman, who realized that to celebrate the dominant codes of englishness, doesn’t have the same status or authority as those persons who, because of their race and geology are constructed as english to the backbone. Part of antoinette’s inability to claim englishness lied in her family’s lack of wealth. For the black inhabitants of jamaica, whiteness was associated with the wealthy planter class. Thus because antoinette can’t properly perform her whiteness, she cannot claim englishness. In the novel wide sargasso sea rhys tried to show the power of black nigger than the white british or white nigger. One of the character tia, who was the jamaican girl and with whom antoinette tried to befriend, pointed out the incongruity in antoinette’s social status when she says, “real white people, they got gold money. Old times white people nothing but white nigger now and black nigger better than white nigger” (rhys, 8). When tia referred to “old time white people” she was referring to former slave owners whose familiarity with and involvement in the slave trade have creolized them “morally and biologically estranged them from their english brethren”. Antoinette’s physical appearance also played a role in her difficulty claiming englishness because her skin colour was ambiguous. While some literary critics assumed antoinette was a white creole because of rochester’s comments about her ability to pass a english at times. Bronte’s text described her as having darkened skin and appearing almost purple to jane (bronte, 317). Bertha/antoinette’s racial ambiguity contributed to her exclusion from an english identity as her description of having darkened skin associated her with blackness, the antithesis of english whiteness. For britain, blackness was associated with the colonial slaves and their violent uprising in the west indies against the white english imperial power. This connection was only strengthened at the end of wide sargasso sea, when rhys foretold what i have previously described as bertha/ antoinette’s slave revolt when she did set out thorn field on fire. Thus bertha/antoinette’s racial ambiguity reflected in english angst, as she was linked with colonial slave violence against the colonizer, made her emphatically un-english. However, just as rhys showed that antoinette cannot be truly english, she problematized the premise of bronte’s novel: that antoinette’s otherness is the reflection of jane’s englishness. In wide sargasso sea, rhys, questioned through her use of colonial mimicry, the diametric opposition of the two female characters seen in jane eyre. Home habra stated that the act of colonial mimicry consists of a desire for a reformed, recognizable other, as a subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite. Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around ambivalence in order to be effective, mimicry must produce its slippage, its excess, its difference? Thus colonial mimicry reveals the ambivalence of racial markers and arbitrariness of cultural hierarchy. In the scene in wide sargasso sea where the black as slave did set fire to calibri, rhys re-enacted the famous scene of bertha who was setting fire to thorn field in jane eyre. By mimicking this scene of colonial violence, rhys made antoinette a victim of the colonial other associating her with the english rochester and jane who were also the victims of the colonial other in jane eyre. Such as a comparison destabilized the supposedly inherent difference antoinette’s crinolines and rochester and jane’s shared englishness. More examples of this rapture in the dominant discourse of englishness can be seen when rochester noticed how antoinette might have been any pretty english girl, and françois “looked like an imitation of an english summer house” (rhys, 40). Both of rochester’s observations illustrated the dangers of colonial mimicry when it bordered on resembles with englishness and undermined its authenticity. Such subversive ideology was a threat to the british, as it revealed englishness as an empty fiction and called into question the very integrity of the english culture and identity. Rhys emphasized the fallacy of the english hierarchy by undermining rochester claims to moral and cultural superiority. She depicted him sharing qualities with daniel cosway, antoinette’s biracial alleged half-brother who like rochester resented his father. She even went so far as rochester betrayed his englishness by endangering the homogeny of the british race through sleeping with the black servant amelia and actively partaking in miscegenation. While rhys successfully problematized englishness autocracy in casting antoinette as the colonial other and english subordinate, she also consciously or unconsciously colluded with the very ideology she attempted to oppose by having antoinette view the blacks as racial inferior. Antoinette displayed an english fear of miscegenation when she saw a black servant kiss her mother. She proceeded to generalize her disgust at the black servant by lashing out to christophine and calling her a “damned black evil from hell” , (rhys, 86). By associating christophine with the black man, antoinette demonstrated that, racial dyad of white and black are always there in the back of her mind, was always structuring and warping the conceptions and relations, even her relationship with christophine. In the scene where antoinette was chased by the biracial boy on her way to school, she described her horror at the child’s hybrid features, “he had white skin, a dull ugly face white covered with freckles, his mouth was a negro mouth, worst, most horrible of all, his hair was crinkled, a negro’s hair, but bright red and his eyebrows and eye lashes were red”. (rhys, 26) antoinette’s apparent fear of the biracial boy stemmed from his enactment of colonial mimicry as he engaged in the act of passing almost the same but not white. Her revulsion at the physical evidence of miscegenation did mirror rochester’s english disgust when he reflected that antoinette and amelia resemble each other and could be related, whereby antoinette would be the colonial subject attempting to pass and infiltrate the borders of whiteness (rhys, 80). Antoinette’s attempts to break out of her displaced role of the “other” and established herself within one cultural group are continually thwarted. When antoinette attempted to assimilate with the black population in jamaica, befriending tia and speaking patois, her complete assimilation was prevented by both tia and rochester when calibri was burned down and antoinette did run to join her friend tia, “she throws a rock at antoinette’s face and signals antoinette’s rejection by the black community (rhys, 23). Rochester of course will not let antoinette find a place among the blacks as she was now the wife of an englishman and voiced his disapproval with her speaking patios with christophine along with hugging and kissing the black servants openly. Thus, antoinette’s own english prejudices, along with tia’s rejection and rochester’s chastisement, excluded her from identifying with the black community, while her birth and familiarity with the former slaves precluded her assimilation with the english community. While in jane eyre rochester asserted that it was bertha’s sexual “excesses that had prematurely developed the germs of insanity”. (bronte, 345).rhys portrayal of antoinette argued that her madness was the result of trying to fit within the narrow confines of englishness. As social dena pointed out, antoinette was a victim of colonization, one of the purest forms of cultural destruction and mass human denigration. Even the british colonizers suffered from a loss of cultural identity as they were creolized and rejected by their british relations. Antoinette alluded to this when she and mr. Mason discussed how cora’s husband’s family refused to help the cosway because of their involvement with slavery. Antoinette’s attempted to identify herself as english which was frustrated by the nature of her position as a creole, on the boundary of englishness and otherness being simultaneously radically different and yet inherently similar to rochester. Eric johnson discussed this dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion within the canon of englishness when she said, “rhys is careful to show how the history of colonialism operates in such a way that creole characters never achieve the same sense of national or even geographical identity that the english character posses. Antoinette exists in an imperial system which simultaneously forces her to submit to the british nation state’s domestic legal and cultural practices yet refuses to view her as anything more than a distant imperial subject never domestically english. She rejected by the jamaican black community and while her label as other is problematized, she is still denied her englishness, antoinette addresses her own lack of identity when she reflects”. It was a song about a white cockroach. “that’s me. That’s what they call all of us who were here before their own people in africa sold them to the slave traders. And i’ve heard english woman call us white niggers. So between you and i often wonder who i am and where is my country and where do i belong and why was i ever born at all (rhys, 63). Taking a holistic view of both bronte and rhy’s texts, it seems that the synthesized character bertha, aka antoinette evaded all presuppositions. She was neither bronte’s mad criminal nor rhy’s dutiful, victimized english wife. Her identity was unknown both to the reader and herself. While its malleability was demonstrated by rochester’s ability to make it free spirited antoinette to lost and confused bertha. Antoinette realized how rochester was manipulating her identity and self concept when she says “bertha is not my name. You are trying to calling me by another name” (rhys, 95). Rochester’s other nickname for antoinette, “marionette”, signified the loss of identify as antoinette soon became rochester’s possession to the locked away in the attic devoid of free-will. Patrick hogan comments on the aptness of “marionette” as a nickname for antoinette saying it reflects her change in identity to “a mere manipulated thing, a puppet, a piece of wood, without reflection or autonomous action, without social connectedness beyond mere population, without identity”. Antoinette’s inability to forge identify for herself coupled with the loss of her primitive self-concept led to her later madness at madness at thorn field. “not only does antoinette lose all concepts of time and place neither remembering how long she has been in the cardboard house nor believing that she is in england but she loses touch with herself (rhys, 116-117). In one of the final scenes of wide sargasso sea, antoinette escaped from her attic prison in thorn field and experiences a traumatic event. “i went into the hall again with the talk candle in my hand. It was then that i saw her ghost. The woman with streaming hair she was surrounded by a gilt frame but i knew her” (rhys, 122). What antoinette has just witnessed was her own transformation into rochester mad creole wife, bertha, as she viewed her reflection in a hall mirror. She has effectively passed through a reverse laconia mirror phase, in which she was now cognizant that her mirror image was distorted and broken, replacing her previously holistic self-concept. It is this disassociation between antoinette was formerly holistic self-concept in jamaica and her currently fractured identity in england that caused antoinette to assume the role of rochester and bronte’s mad creole woman bertha. Rhy’s haunting image of antoinette’s face being reflected on bronte’s mad creole woman in the gilt frame foreshadows antoinette’s life as voiceless berth in bronte’s text trapped by rochester in her gilt cage on the third of thorn field.
Most of the 19th century british novels were based on the comparison of the colonial other with its english superior. While bronte achieved this with bertha and jane in jane eyre, rhys demonstrated english self-importance and superiority by having rochester constantly compare the west indies and its inhabitants to england. She illustrated that for rochester, england is clearly the norm or standard against which everything else should be measured. Starting from his arrival in jamaica, rochester started to begin comparing west indies and english practices: “the time dinner is served, the way the houses look, the way antoinette interacts with the servants (rhys, 55). Perhaps one of the most telling dichotomies rochester did put in to place was that of one ancestral home against another with thorn field asserted the dominance over françois at the conclusion of wide sargasso sea. Rochester’s innate englishness was evidenced through his susceptibility to colonial disease. Jane’s fears of colonial contamination that she expressed in regards to travelling to india in jane eyre who actually realized in rochester’s character in wide sargasso sea when he contracted a fever immediately upon his arrival in jamaica. “his healthy english body cannot withstand the colonial contagion represented by the west indies and he feels wretched from the affliction for two weeks (rhys, 44). Just as antoinette’s otherness and bodily contamination can be seen by her desire and ability to ingest creole food, rochester’s englishness can be seen through his inability to ingest substances that were coded as belonging to the colonial other. In the scene where antoinette did put one of christophine’s positions made of west indian ingredients, “in rochester’s wine he becomes physically sick to the point of thinking himself poisoned (rhys, 88). His unsullied english body has been invaded by the colonial contagion and his moral and cultural superiority were confirmed in his visceral reaction to such contamination. Rochester’s englishness can also be seen in his utopian view of england as a safe haven from his failed marriage. In jane eyre, rochester recalled being on the verge of suicide by thoughts of england: “go, said hope, and live again in europe take the maniac with you to england; confine her with due attendance and precaution at thorn field: then travel yourself to what time you will, and what new tie you like” , (bronte, 347). Rochester was able to achieve freedom from his wife and failed marriage because of his englishness, which was edmund bruce, entitled him to share in the british history of inherent liberty. However, englishness can liberate rochester only by imprisoning antoinette in his english house where she can be kept separate from the domestic english body and the threat her colonial contamination poses can be quarantined. At the end of jane eyre, when bertha did break thus free of her prison life and burned thorn field, rochester’s english body was once again afflicted. “he is maimed, losing his eye sight and a limb during the fire, and decides to remain at fern dean in clean, safe england to convalesce (bronte, 477). As meyer pointed out, “rochester’s mutilation keeps him at home, and thus within the space of the values the novel codes as english. Thus, rochester becomes physically and symbolically tied to domestic england: aligning himself with the englishness of the metro pole and distancing himself from the otherness of the colonies. As a fixture of englishness in both jane eyre and wide sargasso sea, rochester refuses to accept anything that deviates from his english norms and ideals, justifying his emotional suppression: “it was necessary, i was told, and that view i have always accepted. If these mountains challenge me, or baptist’s face, or antoinette’s eyes, they are mistaken, melodramatic, unreal” (rhys, 63). Throughout the novel wide sargasso sea, rochester did set out the proper relationship between english self and ethnic by establishing and defending the moral and physical differences that were enlisted as the signifiers of english national identity. He was horrified by the physical signs of miscegenation that he encountered during his meeting with denial cosway: “a tall fine englishman like you, you don’t want to touch a little tallow rat like meet?” (rhys, 79) rochester attempted to combat this threat to english hegemony with his own marriage when he decided to remove antoinette from françois and her cousin sandi, while daniel cosway insinuated an affair between antoinette and her bi-racial cousin. Antoinette confirmed the relationship “we had often kissed before but not like that. That was the life and death kiss and you only know a long time afterwards what it is, the life and death kiss” (rhys, 123). After bringing antoinette to england, rochester felt that, he has succeeded to restrict antoinette from sexual activity to the domain of the patriarchal family. Therefore, rochester prevented the possible birth and infiltration of antoinette and sandi’s bi-racial bastard into the patriarchal home and codes of englishness. However, rochester’s efforts to erase the colonial threat posed by antoinette’s extramarital affair are not the only markers of his englishness. While both rochester and jane seems to claim englishness as a birth right. Being born within the domestic english sphere such a declamation built solely on geography elides other contributors necessary to possessing englishness. In jane eyre, rochester is presented as having “a gentleman’s tastes and habits,” (bronte, 120) along with “wealth and good blood,” (bronte, 181). He was the master of thorn field and a member of the landed gentry’s class of english society. While antoinette is also presented as possessing a dowry in wide sargasso sea, provided by her rich english step-father, her money is able to purchase only an english husband, not englishness itself. Antoinette comprehends the english obsession with wealth when she comments that” gold is the idol they worship,” (rhys, 122). This english preoccupation with wealth as a means to sustain a family’s social position is the reason for rochester’s disastrous marriage to bertha/antoinette in both texts. As the second son he was forced by his avaricious grasping father and brother to marry a creole heiress for money. Rochester’s father’s only concern was money. Rochester saying to jane, “he (rochester’s father) could not lean the idea of dividing his estate and leaving me a fair portion: all, he resolved, should go to my brother, rowland. Yet as little endure that a son of his should be a poor man. I must be provided for by a wealthy marriage” (bronte, 343). Rochester explains that both his brother and father were aware of bertha’s family history of insanity “but they thought only of the thirty thousand pounds, and joined in the plot against me” (bronte, 344). Thus wealth proves so important to rochester’s family that his father and brother are willing to sell him into a miserable marriage if it means being able to use bertha’s fortune to protect their position in england. Like rochester’s family, jane also exhibited an english understanding of the importance of wealth at young age when she was given the choice between living with impoverished kind relations or staying with the cruel but wealthy reeds. Jane asserted, “no, i was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste,” (bronte, 32). Indeed, wealth and social rank became areas of contention for rochester and jane later in the novel, when the two became engaged. In the famous proposal scene in the gardens of thorn field, rochester cried out to jane, “you poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are- i treat to accept me as a husband” (bronte, 286). While bronte’s characters claimed that love is more important than money or class. But here in this novel we can see that, rochester and jane’s marriage withhold until jane has gained her uncle’s inheritance and effectively purchased her entry into rochester’s caste revealed such claim to be merely rhetoric. During their engagement, rochester’s wealth and jane’s lack of disparate stations. But lamented their financial inequality saying: “it would, indeed, be a relief, i thought, if i had so small an independency, i never can bear being dressed like a doll by mr. Rochester, if i had but a prospect of one day bringing mr. Rochester an accession of fortune, i could better endure to be kept by now” (bronte, 301). Jane occupied a tenuous social position for, while being a governess was certainly noble work that entitled one to the title of a lady, a woman could not be considered upper class unless she possessed a fortune. Leisure time was another important marker of social marker of social class and rank for the victorian woman. By the end of the novel, jane was able to achieve both through her uncle’s inheritance “she is financially independent (possessing a fortune of £ 5,000) and is able to quit her post as a teacher at st. John river’s school in order to have the leisure time required of an upper class lady (bronte, 433). However, the source of jane’s wealth, her uncle’s involvement in the slave trade in madeira was conveniently forgotten by both jane and rochester’s life. When jane informed rochester about her new status as an independently wealthy woman at the end of the novel, he immediately disregarded any mention of her money’s origins and instead focused on her new social station while rochester claimed to love jane because she fulfilled his needs as “the antipodes of the creole” (bronte, 349). She was actually entrenched in the west indies and colonial project. “jane’s very ability to claim englishness through her new social class hinges on her inheritance derived from the colonial project in the west indies (bronte, 426). “not only is jane’s false marriage after he discovers rochester’s first marriage from richard mason, another colonial inhabitant (bronte, 329). Therefore while jane’s colonial connections allowed her to acquire the final markers of englishness making her rochester’s social and intellectual equal when the couple was reunited at fern dean, she was like rochester who was tainted by her dirty colonial money and involvement in the colonial project. Religion and education also served as important markers of englishness in the two novels, with antoinette represented colonial polytheism and jane represented english protestantism. Both women attended christian school during their adolescence. However, while antoinette attended mount calvary convent in jamaica, jane attended logwood in england. Antoinette’s catholic education marked her as alien since britain, above all, defined itself by its rejection of catholics. As linda colley pointed out: “they defined themselves as protestants struggling for survival against the world’s foremost catholic power. Through her affiliation with cruel and miserly characters like eliza from jane eyre, whose choice to enter the convent has more to do with a lack of residential options than religious vocation (bronte, 272). However, while antoinette’s connection with catholicism tainted her. And it is her familiarity with ocean that truly marked her as the colonial other. The practice of ocean was feared and outlawed by the english, who connected it historically with the caribbean black inhabitants who used it as a source of power during the slave rebellions in jamaica and haiti. It was this historical aversion to ocean which caused rochester to contact the english authorities when he discovered christophine and antoinette using it on him to try and made him love antoinette again. As antoinette practiced catholics and ocean simultaneously, she was cast into the role of colonial other with the polytheistic black jamaican community. Conversely, jane’s seamless englishness was evidence through her exclusive protestants as opposed to antoinette’s polytheism. She was introduced a true english protestant, attending logwood, a protestant school, as a child jane asserted her christian valued through her refusal to became rochester’s mistress and the charity she showed the rivers by sharing her inheritance with them (bronte, 432). While jane rejected the type of christian martyrdom helen burns subscribed to and said “i must dislike those who, whatever i do to please them, persist in disliking me; i must resist those who punish me unjustly” (bronte, 68). She performed this act of christian martyrdom with st. John rivers later in the novel. She described her unhappiness at being subjected to learning hindustani and was fulfilling all of st. John’s lofty expectations, there foresaid: i found him an exacting master: he expected me to do a great deal; and when i fulfilled his expectations he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation. By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind: his praise and notice were more restraining than his indifference. I could no longer talk or laugh freely when he was by; because a tiresomely important instinct reminded me that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him. I was so fully aware that only serious moods and occupations acceptable, that in his presence every effort to sustain or follow any other became vain: i fell under a freezing spell when he said ‘go’ i went; ‘come’ i came; ‘ do this’, i did it (bronte, 443). Yet jane was willing to submit to st. John and travel with him to india as his missionary wife, despite her fears of colonial disease sand her scorn for his “counterfeit sentiments” (bronte, 454) as well as his person, “were i but convinced it is god’s will,” (bronte, 466). Jane’s martyrdom was evidenced in this desperate act of selfsacrifice in the name of god and christianity. However, jane’s sacrificial act was interrupted by the sound of rochester’s calling out for her; a sound which jane later discovers resulted from rochester’s praying to god when he called out fir her name. Jane’s ability to hear his prayer and grant them because a testament of her ardent faith and spirituality. This pattern of god rewarding protestants can also be seen in wide sargasso sea when antoinette observes that it isn’t until mr. Mason, the englishman calls out to god to stop the blacks from yelling during the fire at calibri that “mysterious god heard mr. Mason and answered him at once” (rhys, 22). Thus both texts represent a value system whereby protestantism was rewarded by god, while polytheism coded for colonial other. From the perspectives of education the colonizers and the colonized subjects were different as well like religious perspectives. Intelligence and appropriate education were also characterized inherently linked to englishness within the two novels. Jane proved herself to be a competent governess while antoinette seems to lack any solid knowledge: “she was undecided, uncertain about facts any fact” (rhys, 52). In jane eyre, bronte extoled the virtues of the british education system and said, “for after all, the british peasantry are the best taught, best mannered, most self-respecting of any in europe” (bronte, 434). It is for this reason that rochester wishes his word, adele, to have an english governess: “i even took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of paris, and transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of the english country garden,” (bronte, 164). Rochester’s metaphor alluded to bowell’s discussion of medical geography once again as england was coded as clean and pure while anywhere outside the domestic english sphere was depicted as dirty and contaminated. Therefore adele was to be colonized by english teachings and morals in order to eradicate any traces of moral contamination from her french mother celine. The superiority of the english can be seen through rochester’s contemptuous description of his entire mistress “each confirming to a national stereotype. The englishwoman celine proves shallow and false, the italian granite unprincipled and violent, and the german clara honest and quiet; but heavy, mindless, unimpressible,” jane’s ability to rid adele of the vestiges of her french defects” (bronte, 500). Highlights her “crucial role in the cultural battlefield of a realizing nation”. Thus, jane’s claim to englishness was bolstered by her evident power to teach and convey englishness to others. In the final chapter of jane eyre, jane’s narrative voice resounded with her new found marital serenity. She and rochester who were finally able to get together as jane’s social rank and intellect were found to be congruent her pre-existing marks of englishness: birth, education, modesty, and intellect. Jane exemplified the british restraint which rochester possessed in wide sargasso sea. And repeatedly asserted their intellectual compatibility thus said, “i have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves that assimilates me mentally to him” (bronte, 199). While rochester described bertha as having a “nature wholly alien to mine,” (bronte, 434) he claimed jane as his appropriate bride “because my equal is here, and my likeness,” (bronte, 285). It was their shared englishness, that paved the way for a happily ever after conclusion premised not on feminine fancy, but on notion of a natural law of cultural and spiritual compatibility and congruous union. However, this ending can come about only after the removal of the colonial contagion (bertha) from rochester and jane’s relationship although rochester’s blindness and amputated hand can be seen as the scars he must bear as a consequence of his involvement in the colonial project; bertha’s death also signalled the beginning of rochester’s repentance and absolution from colonial sin. “not only does he pledge to lead a purer life than i have done hitherto (bronte, 497). “but he atones for the threat his creole marriage posed to the hegemony of the imperial patriarchal order. By following st. John’s advice and spending her life regenerating the english race (bronte, 435). “jane also absolves my guilt she might possess over her complicity with the colonial project and imperial world, focusing instead on defending the hegemony of the domestic english its power: claiming it as something solely for the nation-state never imperial and unattainable for the colonial other. Both jane and rochester are rewarded for their homogenous union and for policing the borders of englishness with the return of rochester’s eyesight so that he may bear witness to the continuation of the english matrilineal order which his former marriage jeopardized (bronte, 501). Through this symbolic act of healing bronte conveyed the power of englishness to erase traces of colonial contamination. After examining the both texts, it is to be noted that englishness is the superior traits in 19th century english novels. They had the feeling about inherent right over everything but the subordinate people under their subjugation have no right to live by their own wish. And bertha/ antoinette were the best example of colonial subject.
Jane austen’s mansfield park showed that, how colonialism is superior in front of other issues in the context of 19th century literature. A minute reading of the novel demonstrates how colonial power can be articulated within the literary mainstream. The aim for choosing this novel is to examine the colonialism and its impact which has been affected the life of colonial others. As we know the english people usually do smug with utmost triumph over everyone around them and grab the power of imperialism. The novel mansfield park sets the picture of imperial activities which has been the central topic. This novel is the true example of english traits, wealth and property. Sir thomas bertram estate in england was set off against the tempest tossed seas. He navigated on his journey to antigua where he had captured substantial property. In the time of austen, the english readers had no hardship for tracing the fact of the english property such as mansfield park, was maintained of a plantation in the colony of antigua. Historically, they would have been seen britain at the centre of the circle of influence, power and authority. Antigua would have been seen as the insignificant other and therefore of marginal significance. Galati speak pointed out about imperialism and its influence of englishness on readers. She said in her essay, “three women’s texts and a critique of imperialism” that, “it should not be possible to read nineteenth century british literature without remembering that imperialism understood as england’s social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of england to the english. The role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored” (798). Here i strongly assert that, spaak’s realization about imperialism exhibited that the inhabitants of antigua even would have had no problem in reading jane austen’s mansfield park. Austen, in a better sense made fine moral distinction in her fictional realm. But when it comes for the criticism, we could see main criticism. The twentieth century post colonial readers and critics from antigua, england or any other part of the world, who has traced myriad contradictions and fragmentation in austen’s aesthetic presentation which was absent by the early colonial or even post colonial reader. The basic shift in attributes was showed in edward sad’s observation of mansfield park. Said went back to the fictional boundaries of mansfield park to include the historical dimension to know the west indian colony that support of it. He argued: sir thomas’s antigua readily acquires a slightly greater density than the discreet, reticent appearances it makes in the pages of mansfield park. And already our reading of the novel begins to open up at those points where ironically austen was most economical and her critics most negligent. Her ‘ antigua’ is therefore not just a slight but a definite way of marking the outer limits of what william calls domestic improvements, mercantile venturesomeness of acquiring overseas dominions as a source for local fortunes, or one reference among many attesting to a historical sensibility. (said, 94) said further observes that through a minute reading of mansfield park “we can sense how ideas about dependent races and territories were held both foreign office executives, colonial bureaucrats, and military strategists and by intelligent novel reader educating themselves in the fine points of moral evaluation, literary balance, and stylistic finish” (said, 95). Here in mansfield park its odd to know about austen’s writing about the cruelty of slavery, he then kept on remarking to his ideology and pointed out that fanny’s question about the slave trade is met with silence “as to suggest that one world could not be connected with the other since there simply is no common language for both” (said, 96). He finished by saying, “in time there would no longer be a dead silence when slavery was spoken of and the subject became central to a new understanding of what europe was” (said, 96). That time has arrived now. We have to discuss about slavery, property and the british empire, and antiguan and british readers of austen’s mansfield park. I would dispute that if jane austen were writing mansfield park today, she could not have avoided making the ironic connections between antigua and mansfield park of which she did in 1814. A novelist has an own instinct to portray the traits and aims of her art. Austen as well knew what she was writing when she wrote and published mansfield park. Fanny was the only character in the novel who asked a question about the slave trade. But she got no answer, and austen had no concern about that. She perhaps was messed and heedless to provide that certain question about slavery. Fanny’s question created a gap, a momentary silence in the conversation but it did not disrupt the unity of the domestic circle of which is a part. When her cousin edmund pointed out to fanny that she is too quiet and calm in the evening circle, she asserted, and referred to sir thomas bertram, “but i do talk to him more than i used, i am sure i do. Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?” (austen, 198). She went on saying how she had yarned to ask her uncle more question, but hesitated because there had been “such a dead silence” (austen, 198). Following her question about the slave trade. Sir thomas’s reluctance to answer fanny’s question provided an ironic contrast to his general interest in talking at great length about the west indies. The ownership of mansfield’s property has earned through the struggle of west indian’s slaves. Hence, the domestic comfort and tranquillity of the family came. Fanny tells edmund, “the evenings do not appear long to me. I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies. I could listen to him for an hour together” (austen, 197). She denoted about her uncle that “the repose of his own family circle is all he wants” (austen, 196). So question about colonization and the slave trade would surely impair such repose. It is the unimportant awareness that though fanny can see more she did not go beyond a certain point. Instead, she accepted the silence and did not force to have meaning. If she did, she would have to go against her habitually timid nature to challenge the unpleasant truth implied by the silence. A rebellious frankly talking fanny would have to be a character in a different novel. If fanny were to question the silence, she would also question the foundation of mansfield park novel. As she was a insurgent minded character, she would obviously disown any kind of injustice, oppression and cruel truth of antiguan property taken over in the name of civilization, patriotism, nationalism and the perennial success of british empire. That is why austen avoided to inquiry about the slave trade in antigua. Austen’s purpose was to keep the british superiority alive in front of her readers. As a rebel and extraordinary character, fanny would have ask the question about slavery even though the pertinent question was left unanswered, hanging, incomplete. It seems austen teased the reader with a contradiction and decided to leave the question unanswered. Simply she did prove the elatedness of english people and property. Austen actually disturbed the surface in her characterization which is void, then quickly picked the order and unity. Fanny finally married edmund, sir thomas bertram recognized his faults, the stable home of mansfield park was stronger than ever in its values and occupants, but the mystery of mansfield park’s property gaining process left outside the demarcation line of her novel. After all i would strongly assert that austen consider the enlightenment of colonialism and took a close look at the individual in a social and political context. She generates within an accepted paradigm of patriotism, nationalism. It would be irrevocable to break away from this accepted social and political order without demolishing the very roots of british cultural identity. Austen actually underlined ideal moral values, even ideal feminist values without answering the entire contradictory question only to protect the imperialism. To sum up, i feel that, there might be the inherent contradiction in the fact that though fanny lived at a higher level of consciousness, she also echoed the embroiled british empire as she celebrated her brother’s fortunes and adventures at sea.
To sum up, it is clearly noted that, the colonizers from the west are always posses dominating attitudes which we can see through charlotte bronte’s jane eyre, jane austen’s mansfield park. The main messages of this thesis will unveil the superiority of english texts of 19th century. In my this paper i have tried to figure out the superiority and desirability in the early 19th century with jane austen and the impact of imperialism and the elevation of the english identity. In jane eyre, charlotte bronte introduced jane to the reader as a plain and poor girl. She lamented her own lack of good looks when first arriving at thorn field and commented on her alienation from handsome men: “i should have nor could have sympathy with anything in me” (bronte, 130). In this novel, it is rochester’s lack of classic features and beauty that emboldened jane to approach him. However, rochester’s mad creole wife in the attic room created foil for jane which allowed her to occupy the role of english heroin. By juxtaposing the two women throughout the novel, bronte engaged in what edward said described as a strengthened of one party by the comparative weakening of the other. Thus bronte successfully created strong binary between bertha’s creole otherness and jane’s white englishness. While jane was depicted as healthy, chaste, modest english and free. Bertha was shown to be mad, blatantly sexual, violent, creole and needing restraint. Just as jane eyre did set up a narrative of special inclusion where jane and rochester were allowed to exist within the scope of englishness. Jean rhy’s wide sargasso sea did setup a narrative of exclusion where the characters were attempted to achieve englishness but continually fall short. Thus wide sargasso sea became the creole answer to bronte’s english text, produced a more comprehensive understanding of englishness through the dual narrative voice of the colonizer and the colonized. Rhys attempted to resist the superiority of englishness found in jane eyre by changing in what home habra described as colonial mimicry. Her novel acted as the prequel of jane eyre, mimicking it in style and genre. She even made antoinette’s character as the bear strikingly similar to jane in regard to her religious, education, isolation in society, and less of friends. Yet while rhys attempted to mimic but not mirror the english canonical novel in an effort to resist its narrow view of englishness and subsequent coding of the other, she simultaneously colluded with the very ideas she was trying to resist. Therefore by depicting antoinette as constantly trying to distinguish her from the blacks on the islands and made she appear more white, more european, more english. Rhys made her character internalize the cultural hierarchy that values englishness above all. Likewise, in the novel mansfield park we can see the imperial conquest became the pride one has to pay to maintain one’s claim to englishness through class distinction and land ownership. In this novel, fanny was the only character who did ask about slave trade to sir thomas bertram. But he didn’t answer and later on fanny also kept mum about this important issue. She became busy in her domestic affairs which were the basic traits of english people. Fanny was presented like them. Therefore it is also proved like jane eyre novel that here in this novel mansfield park, austen tried to keep the english superiority alive. To present the whole paper’s main gist, here it comes about the final analysis from the three different novels from three different eras. In the novel jane eyre, bronte has instilled her ingrained thoughts about colonial project through the concept of coveted englishness, while on the other hands; jean rhys tried to present the unprecedented defence against jane austen’s famous work jane eyre. But somehow rhys and her novel wide sargasso sea were also biased by the colonial enterprise. This is the explicit victory of the english authors to save their supreme attributes through their writing pieces. To keep the continuation of colonial zeal, here in this paper i have chosen mansfield park, which was the concoction of colonialism. Mansfield park written by jane austen and this novel can be treated as the shadow of jane eyre. Because the both texts has been weaved by the same thread of colonial ideologies where slave trade was the central issue. Hence the power of englishness became prominent and pertinent, therefore erased the traces of colonial contamination.
© 2017 Farhana Haque. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.