John Duigan’s 1993 Film Adaptation of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea: Repossessing and Reclaiming Rhys’s Liberated Antoinette/Bertha

Document Type: Research article

Authors

Shiraz University

Abstract

Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Charoltte Bronte’s famous novel Jane Eyre. It is the story of Antoinette Cosway, a white but Creole heiress, from the time of her youth in Jamaica to her unhappy marriage to a certain English gentleman who is never named by the author. This English gentleman soon renames her Bertha; declares her mad; seizes her property and then forces her to come to England. Arresting an oppressive patriarchal society in which she belongs neither to the white Europeans nor to the black Jamaicans, Rhys’s novel re-imagines Bronte’s devilish madwoman in the attic. As with many postcolonial works, the novel deals largely with the themes of racial inequality and the harshness of displacement and assimilation. According to Linda Hutcheon any adaptation must be examined in its context of creation. John Duigan’s 1993 film adaption of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) is in fact an appropriation re-canonizing Rhys’s novel as an extension of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Duigan’s intentions become more manifest in the light of Australia’s problems and anxieties over its native population of aborigines. By introducing very conspicuous changes and deviating from the original text, the movie re-silences the oppressed characters of Jean Rhys’s novel (who can stand for Australia’s native population) and re-grants the oppressor characters (who can stand for white Australians) full agency and power. In this process, the movie reclaims the superiority of the British culture, justifies the rightness of the British colonial and “civilizing” missions, and grants a kind of psychological pleasure to its white audience ensuring them that they still have power and control over their former aboriginal ‘slaves’. In this paper the researcher attempts to show the hidden purposes of the movie.
Keywords: Counter-discursive novel, adaptation, aborigines, civilizing mission, othering.

Keywords


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