Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 233
In Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre, Rhys found the inspiration for Wide Sargasso Sea. Jane Eyre traces the travails of a poor English governess. In this novel, Bertha Antoinetta Mason appears fleetingly as a crazed Creole madwoman who threatens Jane Eyre's happiness.
The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, Mary Seacole's 1857 autobiography. The Jamaican-born Seacole relates her life as a nurse in the West Indies, Central America, England, and the Crimea. This woman of mixed Scottish and African ancestry describes her rise to fame as a celebrated nurse as well as the racial prejudice she encountered along the way.
In her 1934 novel, Voyage in the Dark, Rhys tells the story of Anna Morgan, a white West Indian woman who lives in England. Often dreaming of home and feeling alienated by life in England, Anna becomes an alcoholic prostitute.
In her posthumously published Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography (1979), Rhys recollects her Dominican childhood and reflects on the tensions that divided blacks from whites.
''Jean Rhys'' is Caribbean writer Derek Walcott' s 1981 poetic tribute to the author. Walcott imaginatively recreates how Rhys came to write Wide Sargasso Sea in this short poem.
In The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (1985), Elaine Showalter discusses the diagnosis and treatment of mentally ill women in England. She includes an analysis of Jane Eyre's Bertha Mason, and describes the historical background of such a character.
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