Wide Sargasso Sea is a 1966 novel by Dominica-born British author Jean Rhys. It is a feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre (1847), describing the background to Mr. Rochester’s marriage from the point-of-view of his mad wife Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress. Antoinette Cosway is Rhys’ version of Brontë’s devilish ”madwoman in the attic”. Antoinette’s story is told from the time of her youth in Jamaica, to her unhappy marriage to a certain unnamed English gentleman, who renames her Bertha, declares her mad, takes her to England, and isolates her away from the rest of the world in his mansion. Antoinette is caught in an oppressive patriarchal society in which she fully belongs neither to Europe nor to Jamaica. Wide Sargasso Sea explores the power of relationships between men and women and develops postcolonial themes, such as racism, displacement, and assimilation.
Rhys lived in obscurity after her previous work, Good Morning, Midnight, was published in 1939. She had published other novels between these works, but Wide Sargasso Sea caused a revival of interest in Rhys and her work and was her most commercially successful novel.