Wide Sargasso Sea—Research Paper
This paper should be between six
and eight pages. This paper must have a thesis, and use three outside
sources (besides Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys; one quote
for each is fine). You must include a “Works Cited” page which follows perfect MLA
format; essays will be penalized for failing to properly credit sources.
Remember it’s fine to use information garnered from other sources; you simply
must give them credit to avoid thievery/plagiarism (which is, of course,
illegal).Go to the research section of Mission's Library web site for easy
pointers re: MLA. Also use Essential Little, Brown Handbook, and/or
For this section of the assignment,
I wish for you to research some element that came up in the book, which for you
has some significance. In a way, you are both analyzing an aspect of the book and comparing it with outside, historical, nonfiction research. If you wish to do a paper topic not listed below,
please bring it to my attention, and we’ll discuss it. Thank you and I
can’t wait to see your work. Possible projects could include:
1. This historical context
in which the novel is set is a combination of England and Jamaica, during
Colonialism, early to mid 1800s, is studied more closely with this
prompt. You may discuss things such as the native peoples of Jamaica, the
setting, the social dynamics, etc. You might explore such questions
as: How realistic are (any of these) elements as presented in the
novel? (Perhaps you may want to compare Rhys’ historical rendering with
that of Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre.) How might it compare to the
United States in Antebellum (pre-Civil War) South? How do the characterization
of native peoples compare to the African Americans in “classic” American novels
(of or about that era) in this country, say, for example, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
(etc)? Do not try to tackle all of these questions; in fact,
address only one.
2. The phenomenon of the “mad
white/Creole West Indian woman”. Compare your findings to that
of the character Bertha Mason presented in either/both Jane Eyre and
Wide Sargasso Sea. Topics to research might include
biculturalism/biracial phenomena, social stratification/organization, roles of
women during this period of time, anti-colonist sentiment (such as resentment,
etc), etc. Is either character realistic, flat or dynamic when set beside real
life examples from that period? Research the occurrence of insanity in the
wives of colonizers in any country during the 1700s or 1800s.
3. The sexual/gender roles
of the men and women in Wide Sargasso Sea—how historically accurate are they?
How do they compare to a rendering in a novel around the mid to late 19th
centuries in either England or Jamaica? Are they similar? What is
different about Rhys’ depiction? Why is that significant? Use a specific novel
on which to base your comparison.
4. The role of
religion/Catholicism in the novel. How did this relate to social and
educational mores of the time? How did this impact the characterization of
Antoinette in WSS? How did Catholicism in some ways liberate her, in
others imprison her, and why?
5. Explore traditions of arranged
marriages in England in that period. Did they generally hurt or help
society, either for England, or for English colonies abroad? Relate
directly to details of the novel.
6. Elements of sexism
in the novel. How is society biased against, or perhaps rather naïve to,
the needs of women? How does Rhys’s novel handle this subject? Why might
she have felt a need to write a prequel for the classic novel by Bronte at all?
Relate to historical research of this nature for mainstream England and/or life
in the post-slavery Jamaican colony.
7. The culture of Jamaica
today versus that depicted in Rhys’s novel. What seems to be better,
what worse (if anything)? How would the fact that Rhys published her
novel in the early 1960s coincided with a new global standard of cultural
and sexual identity have perhaps impacted Rhys’ messages in the novel. Why
might she have felt a need to write a prequel for the classic novel by Bronte