21st April was the 198th Birthday of Charlotte Bronte, the woman who made Jane Eyre a world-known woman. She was mentioned a lot in English Literature and led to her popularity, but Jean Rhys – the woman who gave mad woman from the attic a voice hardly get mentioned.
I remembered how I used to love reading her “Jane Eyre”, and her sister Emily’s “Wuthering Heights”. “Jane Eyre” was good, but for me it was rather unnecessary to have a “mad woman” in the attic, in order to stop her from marrying her Mr Rochester – Mr Rochester’s possessive nature (really?) already can drive Jane away, or Jane’s independence and curiosity to the world alone can drive her away from Rochester. As a result, there was just unnecessary for the “mad woman” to exist.
Years later – I began to read Jean Rhys’s “Wide Sargasso Sea” under the persuasion of my partner. It was then I realized how problematic of Jane Eyre’s storyline, there is a strong scent of Orientalism or colonization within the story, all embodied within Mr Rochester. Jane Eyre and Antoinette (the mad lady) being treated differently, based on their race, based on their chances of survival without a man…
Ever since then, I can no longer look at Jane Eyre in the same old simple self, ever again. I no longer able to see the book without being aware of the fact that Charlotte Bronte was just another victim who lived under colonization, by writing about this “mad woman from the attic” with a West Indies background. I presume Jean Rhys must’ve recognized it in the first place, so she wrote this to voice out the problems.