Heroes, Monsters, Freedom and Bondage: Inclusion, Exclusion and Autonomy in Une tempête, Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea


  • Paula K. Sato Kent State University


In the same decade that Martinican poet Aimé Césaire resurrected the dark, misshapen Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest as the hero of his provocative adaptation for a black theater Une tempête (1969), Dominican writer Jean Rhys resuscitated the raving madwoman from Brontë’s Jane Eyre as the heroine of her haunting novel Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). Concomitantly, as did slave narratives and female gothic novels, they demonized the European patriarch as they “dramatiz[ed] the evils that result from human beings whose passion for power is focused not on power over self but on power over others,” to reiterate Kari J. Winter’s observation.... Charlotte Brontë, who also explores the nature of the patriarchal relationship, does so through the ordering of her narrative in Jane Eyre around a figurative slavery. We will find that whereas the European patriarch is a necessary component of her heroine’s attainment of sexual equality in Victorian England, he remains eccentric to the Caribbean worlds that Césaire and Rhys present. Despite the difference in the role that they represent European man as playing in the more equitable worlds that they propose, the three texts come to the tacit understanding that his inclusion is contingent upon his willingness to relinquish his traditional role as master of his own destiny and that of others.