Living In A Man’s World In the books “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, and “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, Jane and Antoinette are women living in the early to mid-1800s, struggling to overcome the adversities of being born a female in a world dominated by men. Though both characters come from different social classes, have contrasting personalities, and are presented with divergent circumstances, they share the same fight for equality. Jane Eyre is an 18-year-old independent woman who has faced hardships and heartbreak; ranging from her terrible childhood, to the betrayal of her fiancé Rochester.
Ultimately, it is her headstrong and persevering behavior which allows her to forgive and marry Rochester, while at the same time winning the battle against gender prejudice. On the contrast, Antoinette is a white, rich girl born in Jamaica, yearning to be accepted and loved by her mother, townspeople, and her husband of her arranged marriage, who unfortunately all reject her. Unlike Jane, whose independence and self-reliance help her get through her tough times, Antoinette lets herself be molded and dictated into this version of a perfect female by her husband Rochester, and soon loses the fight for equality and her sanity. Jane and Antoinette experience the same challenges and desires of wanting to be loved, and it is through the aftermath of their abusive childhood, ways of communicating with Rochester, and the impact of faith shows how Jane is able to succeed in this patriarchy, while Antoinette is forced surrender herself to male authority.
In “Jane Eyre” and “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Jane and Antoinette deal with physically abusive and mentally opprobrious childhoods, which play a major role in their disposition and choices later on in the book. On page 20 of “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Antoinette states, “I could see the beads of perspiration on her upper lip and the dark circles under her eyes. I started to fan her, but she turned her head away. She might rest if I left her alone she said” (Rhys). Antoinette craves for her mother to show affection towards her, and is willing to go through great lengths to make her mother happy even though she is always met with rejection.
She has never received the motherly love she wishes to have, and is a main factor of why she tries to please Mr. Rochester, becoming more submissive. Jane experiences a similar instance of not being wanted when Mrs. Reed purposefully lies about Jane’s behavior so she can be sent away by stating, “I should wish her to be brought up in a manner suiting her prospects,” continued my benefactress; “to be made useful, to be kept humble: as for the vacations, she will, with your permission, spend them always at Lowood” (Bronte 57). However, unlike Antoinette, who is made more submissive after events of rejection, Jane is made more bold and courageous, and later on in the chapter, stands up to Mrs.
Reed and her vituperative ways, not letting her words have a negative affect to her. As Jane grows up, she realizes that she only has herself to depend on, and her independence is what helps her break free of the restrictions put on her by the male dominating society. Both Jane and Antoinette face horrible childhoods which have left scars on their mind, but it is how they chose to live their life afterwards that differentiates them and their future. Jane and Antoinette both have interactions with the main love interest Rochester, but their contrasting ways of communication is what allows a stable relationship with him and Jane, and a toxic one with Antoinette. In “Wide Sargasso Sea,” Antoinette and Rochester marriage is based on a foundation made of lust, as it states in this moment of intense passion, “You wouldn’t have to kill me. Say die and I will die. You don’t believe me? Then try, try say die and watch me die.” “Die then! Die!” I watched her die many times… Very soon she was as eager for what’s called loving as I was- more lost and drowned afterwards” (Rhys 84).
As stated many times by Rochester, his marriage with Antoinette is based off of lustful desires and sexual passion, which slowly turns into a one-sided love on Antoinette’s part, and is unfortunately not reciprocated by her husband. Rochester makes no other attempt to understand or love her other than in a lustful manner, and Antoinette’s acquiescent behavior makes her not speak up on matters that will affect her life. In “Jane Eyre,” Jane is direct and blunt when she states, “Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!” (Bronte 275). Unlike Antoinette, who has been shaped to be the perfect, compliant female by society, Jane is unwilling to change who she is to please the demands of Rochester. By Jane voicing out her objections towards the ill treatment from Rochester and staying loyal to the values that are instilled in her, Rochester becomes the one changing his demanding and barbaric ways to please Jane. Different kinds of communication between the characters has long term effects on the security of ones relationship , and we see how Antoinette conforming into the ways of an 18th century lady had a severely negative impact on her love with Rochester, as well as herself. Religion has played a crucial role in both Jane Eyre and Antoinette Mason’s life, as both encounter it, yet practice it in different ways.