Date of Award

4-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Department

English

First Advisor

Brian Deyo

Second Advisor

Ashley Shannon

Third Advisor

Shinian Wu

Abstract

In light of Wide Sargasso Sea, through which Jean Rhys intends to provide the madwoman Bertha in Jane Eyre with a voice and a life, this thesis attempts to reread Jane Eyre from a postcolonial perspective, arguing that both texts can be read as critiques of the cruelty and inhumanity of European civilization. After the English beat the Spanish at sea, and complete the First Industrial Revolution, it establishes the country as the greatest imperialistic power in the world. The need of labor, raw material, and new market leads them to develop colonies in remote areas like the Caribbean. By claiming a civilized and therefore higher status, the English carry out cruel enforcement of the English law in the colonies, and justify their exploitation and oppression by concocting sex and race theory, which situate themselves on the privileged side of the binary pairs such as human/nature, male/female, and reason/emotion. Suffering from the dualism of colonial expansion, non-European women are often inferiorized and dehumanized from a Eurocentric perspective. In Victorian literature, it is not rare to see that those women often end their stories either with madness, or death. This thesis gives a detailed analysis of how and why Antoinette/Bertha is represented as one of the civilization’s discontent, a character who is driven to madness and death by Rochester, her English husband. Ultimately, she burns with the Thornfield Hall to criticize the patriarchal and imperial ideology of English civilization.

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