Madness In Wide Sargasso Sea

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Madness as Identity Fragmentation The main focus of this essay is to prove that the madness experienced by a few of the characters in Wide Sargasso Sea is not necessarily an inherent mental illness, but rather a consequence of the stress that colonialism, patriarchy and/or the consequence of existing between spaces has placed on the identity of each of the individuals. Madness in this sense is the fragmentation of an identity, something that both Antoinette and Rochester experience as they find themselves displaced in the world of Wide Sargasso Sea. Wide Sargasso Sea is a complex post-colonial feminist text. The story is deeply psychological, and offers insight into a story never told. It was written to be the voice for the silenced and marginalized…show more content…
After all, the novel sets out to explain the origin of Antoinette’s madness through her own narrative, something she was denied in Jane Eyre. The definition of madness is quite critical in Wide Sargasso Sea as Antoinette is premeditated to lose her sanity due to the original plot in Jane Eyre. There are two types of madness discussed in the novel. The first type is madness as an inherent mental illness. This is carried over from Jane Eyre, and described to be the underlying cause of Antoinette’s madness. In Wide Sargasso Sea, it is Daniel Cosway—in his first letter—that informs Rochester that Antoinette’s family suffers from madness. Daniel writes, ‘There is madness in that family. Old Cosway die raving like his father before him’ and further writes about Mrs Cosway’s descent into madness, and that Antoinette is showing the same symptoms (Part Two, 58-59). Depending on the perspective, this could be seen as something Rochester echoes in Jane Eyre, ‘Bertha Mason is mad; and she came of a mad family;—idiots and maniacs of three generations!’ (249). The second reading of madness is one more commonly explored in literature as a theme to emphasize the devastating effects of losing one’s identity or past. In Colonialism and Cultural Identity, Hogan writes about how identity is separated into two parts according to Lacan theory: practical identity and reflective identity. Practical identity, Hogan writes, is ordinary, habitual, or confident individual action, but individual action interwoven with other individual actions, including those of others (83). In conjunction with practical identity is reflective identity. Reflective identity is one’s self-image, what one thinks of oneself conceptually and perceptually. In Lacan terms it is a constituted ego formed by the recognition of what one is seen and spoken as by others (84). This is divided into two phases. The first phase, The Mirror Stage, occurs in
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