Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea Theme of Versions of Reality
As you read Wide Sargasso Sea, you might catch yourself asking, "OK, would somebody please tell me what's really going on here?" And you wouldn't be alone. In a novel that's written in such a deceptively simple style, all we get are different versions of events, and never what really happened. Without an objective, omniscient narrator telling us what's going on, the novel invites us to question the distinction between dream and reality, madness and sanity, superstition and reason, truth and falsity. By giving us a patchwork of different, equally compelling perspectives, the novel casts suspicion on anyone who would dare dismiss any one of those perspectives as less valid than the others.
Questions About Versions of Reality
- The novel never gives us an objective point of view, just the events as told through various characters. How does withholding the "truth" of what happened affect the way we read the novel? Is it possible that there's any "truth" to be found?
- How does the novel differentiate between Antoinette's and Rochester's ways of looking at the world? How are they similar? Is Antoinette in fact mad, and Rochester sane and rational?
- What is the relationship between Antoinette's recurring nightmares and the rest of the novel? Do dreams offer her a way to process particularly troubling events? Do they reveal hidden wishes or desires? Are they actual glimpses of the future? Or are they something else entirely? If they're only dreams, why are dream elements popping up in Rochester's reality?
Chew on This
Antoinette's psychological instability is not due to racial or genetic factors, as Rochester believes, but precipitated by the numerous traumatic experiences that have shattered her sense of self.
By presenting not only different narratives, but also different representations of the same story through dreams, letters, and rumors, the novel calls attention to the different ways in which fictions contribute to our understanding of reality.