Date of Thesis

2014

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Ghislaine McDayter

Second Advisor

Meenakshi Ponnuswami

Keywords

Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Wide Sargasso Sea, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Jean Rhys, Unreliable narrative, Female insanity

Abstract

In my thesis, I interrogate narrative reliability related to depictions of female insanity in Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and Wide Sargasso Sea. By subjecting the trustworthiness of her storytelling to criticism, especially as regards the concealed madwoman, Bertha Mason, Jane's narration is revealed as unstable, offering problematic insight into a character long considered unflinchingly honest. In du Maurier's later literary adaptation of Jane Eyre, Bertha's parallel character, the eponymous Rebecca, comes to the fore, while the novel's unnamed narrator remains in the shadows, and bases much of her storytelling upon hearsay, rather than the "autobiography" of Jane Eyre. The most transparent narrative voice, however, is Antoinette, the main character of Wide Sargasso Sea, the 1966 prequel to Jane Eyre. Despite her madness, Antoinette's narration makes no attempt at dissemblance, speaking forthrightly about her marriage and experience, proving a truthful narrator and openly rejecting the marginal status the earlier narrators try desperately to hide.

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