Race and Gender in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

  • B Samb

Abstract

This article explores the social demarcations between English and Creole cultural identities foregrounding race and gender in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. Set in a post Emancipation West Indian colony, the novel dramatizes the impossibility of mutual and creative exchanges between the fragments of a disintegrating world. When the novel
begins, the English hegemony is already structured and symbolically cast in the Caribbean islands in terms of patriarchal family. We aim to demonstrate that the characters’ minds are shaped in conformity with the theory of racial essentialism and nativism which suggests
the existence of a myth of an identifiable and homogeneous natural character. Such an approach sets a white-black binary of race relations and assigns roles of masters and subaltern to the two social groups. It accounts for the fact that Whites and Blacks refer each to the racial others using stereotypical and over generalizing discourses. This study
contradicts also the idea according to which Whites make up one homogeneous racial group. In fact, those who were born in Britain maintain their Englishness pure and whole throughout the narration. Their place of birth confers on them superiority over the other
Whites whose birth in the West Indies instantly renders Creole.
This paper analyses as well the gender issue within the framework of the patriarchal order imposed by the imperialist’s ideology foregrounding the lives of two female characters: the white Creole protagonist and a woman of color. Throughout her life, the former constantly strives to replicate the dominant ideals, values, and conceptual structures.
As for the latter, she appears as a self-determining agent, a defiant subaltern who opposes a strong resistance to the oppressors’ ideology. Her resistance appears in many different forms.
Published
2009-10-06
Section
Articles

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eISSN: 1813-2227