The book Wide Sargasso Sea Novel Analysis

The book Wide Sargasso Sea is a post-colonial novel written in 1966 by Jean Rhys, an author of Dominican-British descent. The novel has been acclaimed as a reply to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre due to its take on feminism in post-colonial times. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys tries to provide an insight into how sexual and racial identities got exploited. All these at a time when Britain had abolished slavery and those who were associated with it shunned by society. Despite being published in 1966, Wide Sargasso Sea is set in the 1800s and sheds light on male domination issues and the prevalent socio-political climate. Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys’ take on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as it provides an alternative narrative of Mr. Rochester’s life with his Creole wife. While Bronte refers to Rochester’s wife as Bertha, Rhys names her Antoinette and narrates the novel through her experiences (Rhys, 1966).

The God of Small Things, on the other hand, is the first novel written, in 1997, by Indian author Arundhati Roy. The novel illustrates the experiences of twins living when there existed certain rules, otherwise known as the Love Laws. These laws dictated who got loved, how they got loved, and how much love they could receive. As its name suggests, The God of Small things portrays how much the little things influence everyday human life (Roy, 1997). One of the novel’s major topics revolves around issues of the Indian caste system that imposes segregation of people based on race and class. Ultimately, Roy uses the novel to illuminate readers about how massively sexual abuse can impact people’s otherwise uneventful lives.

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Aside from the fact that both Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and The God of Little Things by Arundhati Roy are similar in that women author them, they have several other similarities. One such similarity is that of postdated setting. As earlier illustrated, Wide Sargasso Sea, despite being published in 1966, was set in the 1800s. This allowed the author to allow readers to experience for themselves how women, then, survived in what was a male-dominated society (Rhys, 1966). Similarly, Roy’s The God of Little Things, published in 1997, offers readers a glimpse of the myriad difficulties people living in 1960s post-colonial India had to endure (Roy, 1997).

Another similarity found in the two novels is how they both demonstrate how the societies portrayed within them functioned. Human relations between the prevailing social classes are demonstrated in both novels. To begin with, Wide Sargasso Sea makes readers notice how the upper class, made up of large plantation owners, looked down and trod upon the lower class, consisting of slave laborers. Basing on how Annette’s house got razed down by angry emancipated slaves living in Coulibri, it is not unwarranted to observe that resentment played a major role in how the two classes related (Rhys, 1966). Similarly, The God of Little Things reinforces this class division and aggression towards one another through the tragedy of Velutha. Being a person from the lower dalit caste, Velutha was prohibited from fraternizing with persons from the upper caste. In the end, his failure to abide by that prohibition led to his brutalization, arrest, and subsequent death (Roy, 1997).

The two authors’ (Rhys and Roy) deliberate use of their novels’ titles to paint a picture of what their works were about is another similarity that is evident between Wide Sargasso Sea and The God of Little Things. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys introduces the Sargasso Sea, which is an actual sea in the northern area of the Atlantic Ocean. The Sargasso Sea is known to have the seaweed known as sargassum. This connects to Rhys’ novel by equating the hardships and helplessness experienced by 1800s women to those faced by unlucky maritime navigators who get trapped in the floating sargassum found in the Sargasso Sea (Rhys, 1966). On the other hand, Roy intentionally uncomplicates her novel’s title and provides a sneak preview of what it entails. After reading Roy’s novel, readers realize that indeed it is the small things or things that are mistakenly seen as small and inconsequential that matter the most. For instance, ‘small’ matters like the Indian caste system may have been accepted in the 1960s, and their impact thought minimal. It is, however, that same system that brought calamity to Velutha and probably others of his ilk (Roy, 1997).

Yet another similarity between Wide Sargasso Sea and The God of Small Things is that inside them lie tales depicting women being unfairly imprisoned in their homes. For example, in Rhys’ novel Antoinette, renamed Bertha by her abusive husband, Mr. Rochester, becomes branded mad and locked up in a room by him (Rhys, 1966). Similarly, Roy’s novel depicts the fate of Rahel and Estha’s mother, Ammu. She ended up getting locked up in her room following the discovery of her undesirable tryst with her lower-caste lover Velutha (Roy, 1997).

Escapism as a way of solving problems faced by characters is another similarity between Wide Sargasso Sea and The God of Small Things. In Rhys’ novel, Antoinette, having endured massive emotional abuse from Rochester, flees to the home of her former nurse Christophine. Upon reaching there Antoinette beseechs Christophine to give her a potion which she intended to use to reignite Rochester’s affections for her. This ploy, however, backfires when the potion poisons Rochester and contributes to her getting locked up (Rhys, 1966). In Roy’s novel too, the twins Rahel and Estha attempt to run away from home following their mother’s anger towards them. Just like in Wide Sargasso Sea, the twins’ attempt backfires as their cousin Sophie dies after their boat capsized and sets off a tragic sequence of events (Roy, 1997).


One major difference between the two novels by Rhys and Roy is that while Wide Sargasso Sea was a way of the author depicting issues like exploitation and slavery, The God of Small Things focuses on the established class divides and how people’s lives were somewhat predetermined. Rhys brings to the fore Antoinette’s narration of how her early childhood, lived in a settler plantation in Jamaica, was when slavery, in all of the British Empire, had been abolished. Her family’s resentment from emancipated slaves, which resulted in their farmhouse getting burned, resulted from abolishing slavery (Rhys, 1966). In The God of Small Things, Roy laments about the negative consequences of practices like the Indian caste system. Going as far as dictating who people could associate with and the dire consequences they could face was not an acceptable situation to Roy, as seen through the experiences of characters like Ammu and Velutha (Roy, 1997).


One major theme present in Wide Sargasso Sea and The God of Small Things is manipulation. In Rhys’ novel, this theme is depicted in the cunning actions of Daniel, who enters the fray and makes unsubstantiated claims of being Antoinette’s illegitimate half-brother. However, his manipulation of Rochester leads to him believing Daniel’s assertions, including questioning Antoinette’s mental stability and making untrue allegations about her past reputation. Eventually, Daniel’s manipulation leads to Antoinette being labeled a madwoman and locked upstairs (Rhys, 1966). In Roy’s novel, the theme of manipulation is best brought forth by Rahel and Estha’s aunt, Baby Kochamma. Following the death of young Sophie, Baby Kochamma influences the police to arrest an innocent Velutha. This was her way of punishing him for breaking protocol and having an affair with Ammu. After her machinations were discovered by the police, who threatened to arrest her, Baby Kochamma quickly manipulated the already scared twins. She tricked them into believing they would be arrested for their part in Sophie’s death if they did not back up her allegations against Velutha (Roy, 1997).

Tragedy is another theme evident in both Wide Sargasso Sea and The God of Small Things. Instances of tragedy in Rhys’ novel can be noted in the manner in which Annette’s younger disabled son Pierre was killed. This happened when the angry emancipated slaves from Coulibri burned Annette’s house while the young man was inside. Another incident relates to when Annette’s mental health deteriorated greatly after her son’s tragic death. Annette’s husband, Mr. Mason, sent her away to live with another couple following this deterioration. This couple ended up torturing Annette to death, never seen again by Antoinette (Rhys, 1966). This theme is also presented in Roy’s novel in instances that include the tragic death of Sophie following the capsizing of their boat. This was at the time the twins Rahel and Estha were trying to run away from home. The unfortunate events that followed Velutha and Ammu’s relationship, which led to Velutha’s death in police custody, provide another instance of tragedy. It should also not escape notice that following the end of her romance with Velutha, Ammu got locked up in her room before being kicked out of the family home by Chacko, her brother. In the end, Ammu dies alone, aged 31, without her son Estha seeing her again as he had been sent, by force, to live with his father (Roy, 1997).

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