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Double Colonization in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea: A Postcolonial Feminist Critique

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The English colonial rule of the 19 th century was undoubtedly based on an unequal power relationship and oppression of a great majority of the people and their lands in the world. The Carribean was one of the countries where the British colonists
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    86 ISSN 2286-4822 www.euacademic.org EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH  Vol. VI, Issue 1/ April 2018 Impact Factor: 3.4546 (UIF) DRJI Value: 5.9 (B+) Double Colonization in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea:  A Postcolonial Feminist Critique MUHAMMAD AZMAT  Associate Professor of English Government Postgraduate College, Haripur Higher Education Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa PhD English Scholar, International Islamic University Pakistan  Abstract: The English colonial rule of the 19  th  century was undoubtedly based on an unequal power relationship and oppression of a great majority of the people and their lands in the world. The Carribean was one of the countries where the British colonists ruled with all might and sway, badly affecting the lives of its colonized people. Of these colonized people, it was the female colonized who suffered even more due to the additional patriarchal structure imposed on them as well. In this regard, Jean Rhys’s novel Wide Sargasso Sea (WSS) presents a  faithful and comprehensive critique. For this purpose, first of all, the related literature was reviewed on the concept of double colonization with reference to WSS in light of the relevant views. Next, for the  purpose of analysis, the study was delimited to the plight of the main character Antoinette and her mother Annette in light of the various events and discourses from WSS as to how double colonization affected the lives of the aforementioned female characters. On the basis of the analysis, it was found out that double colonization affected Antoinette and Annette by a number of its main aspects and factors, such as, economic exploitation, marriages, otherness, cultural hybridity, and  patriarchy, by bringing about their alienation not only from the colonial and patriarchal culture around but also from their own self and life, thus suffering from identity crisis, madness, and finally death.  Muhammad Azmat -  Double Colonization in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea:  A Postcolonial Feminist Critique EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. VI, Issue 1 / April 2018 87 Key words:  alienation, alterity, Black, colonialism, colonization, colonizer, Creole, double colonization, feminist, identity crisis, patriarchy, postcolonial, White 1. INTRODUCTION Historically, the Caribbean was a British colony in the late 1830s when WSS   was set. In fact, it was one of the countries which were severely affected by the British colonialism during the Victorian Age. Slavery remained in practice there alongwith other British colonies for a long time till it was abolished by the British Parliament in 1833. The Slavery Abolition Act, however, as Rhys (1982) narrated, worsened the situation for the Creoles, especially the weaker or more vulnerable ones from them, like the maleless and rich families of the female colonized members, due to the newly freed, vengeful, and violent Blacks. As a result, the Creole female colonized suffered the most at the hands of both the White male colonizers from patriarchal Victorian English culture as well as the Black-dominated patriarchal culture around. This sort of blend of colonialism and patriarchy oppressing the women was termed as double colonization by Kirsten Holst Peterson and Anna Rutherford. Against this background, it was observed that WSS   was perhaps the best postcolonial feminist critique in the sense that it exposed more logically, convincingly, and mesmerizingly than any other novel the worst effects of double colonization on the Creole colonized female characters, particularly the main Antoinette and her mother Annette, including their tragic deaths. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW The term  Patriarchy   means ―the rule of the father‖ (Wolfreys, Robbins, & Womack, 2006, p. 76). In a broader sense, patriarchy refers to the male supremacy and dominance.  Muhammad Azmat -  Double Colonization in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea:  A Postcolonial Feminist Critique EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. VI, Issue 1 / April 2018 88 Referring to Rh ys‘s novels, Abel (1979) remarked, ―Power is distributed unevenly in Rhys‘s world. The significant men in her novels have jobs, money, and consequently the power to appropriate women and discard them‖ (p. 170).  Likewise, colonialism  also refers to a power relationship that Butt (2013) characterizes as based on ― domination, cultural imposition, and exploitation . . . a form of domination which involves the subjugation of one people by another‖ (p. 2). In similar terms, Wolfreys, Robbins, and Womack (2002) define it as ―the manner in which o ne culture appropriates the land, people and resources of another to further its imperialist   ends‖ (p. 22). More specifically, however, it refers to ―a lucrative commercial operation, bringing wealth and riches to Western nations through the economic exploitation of others. It was purely for economic profit, reward and riches‖ (McLeod, 2007, p. 7). To Nayar (2008), conialism ―destroyed native cultures, or al tered them significantly‖ (p. 3). Historically, the British colonial rule was in full sway and swing in the Victorian era. The British Empire held its sway over a considerable number of colonies and the British nation grew in prosperity. In this connection, Boehmer (1995) observed that ―in the late Victorian age the projection of British authority abroad was particularly powerful and far- reaching‖ (p. 2). While throwing light on the source of the British domination, she further argued that ―the English did not establish their power only through military force, but also by imposing British culture‖ (p. 13 ). Both colonialism and patriarchy, in a general sense, are based on an unequal power relationship and oppression. While colonialism is the main concern of the postcolonial thinkers and writers, patriarchy is what the feminists focus on. According to Lundin (2008), feminists focus on the power balance between men and women‖, while ― Postcolonialism focuses on the marginalisation and oppression of women in colonial contexts ‖ (p.2). In collective terms, as McLeod (2000) remarked,  Muhammad Azmat -  Double Colonization in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea:  A Postcolonial Feminist Critique EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. VI, Issue 1 / April 2018 89 ―feminism and postcolonia lism share the mutual goal of challenging forms of oppression‖(p. 174).  Sometimes, it happens that colonialism co-exists with patriarchy as one oppressor, thus creating a very ruthless exploitation of the female colonized. While the male colonized are oppressed and marginalized by the foreign colonizers, the female ones are even doubly marginalized and doubly oppressed, thus doubly colonized. According to McLeod (2000), ―Kirsten Holst Peterson and Anna Rutherford used the phrase ‗Double Colonization‘ to refer to the ways in which women have simultaneously experienced the oppression of colonialism and patriarchy‖ ( p. 175). Spivak (1989) called these women as female subalterns. She wa s of the view that ―in the context of colonial production, the subaltern has no history and cannot speak, the subaltern as female is even more deeply in shadow‖ (pp. 82-83). In view of the above-mentioned theme, WSS   is a remarkable postcolonial and feminist text, unveiling the colonial and the patriarchal power structures, otherwise glorified by Charlotte Bronte in her novel Jane Eyre . In the words of Lundin (2008): Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre, where  Antoinette/Bertha is known as the ‗madwoman in the attic‘. Wide Sargasso Sea depicts an explanation for  Antoinette/Bertha‘s troublesome situation and it ends up tragically with the female protagonist‘s total deprivation of her freedom. (p. 1)  Viewing the relationship of Antoinette and her husband Mr. Rochester broadly in both patriarchal as well as colonial terms, Lundin further remarked that ―t he relationship between these two spouses is not only a gender mixed relationship, but also a mixture of different cultures and traditions ‖ (p. 5). Elaborating in a bit more comprehensive terms, O‘Connor (1986) observed that ―in Rhys‘s novel [ WSS  ] it [the Sargasso Sea] symbolizes the division between whites and blacks, the English and the  Muhammad Azmat -  Double Colonization in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea:  A Postcolonial Feminist Critique EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH - Vol. VI, Issue 1 / April 2018 90 West Indian Creoles, hate and love, power and submissiveness, men and women, devils and innocents, and the possessors and the possessed (p. 145). Overall, WSS   stands unique in terms of exposing the cause of the suppressed, the repressed and the under-represented, which is fixed by postcolonial, feminist and postmodern critics in their own spheres. It illustrates the worst example of double Colonization perhaps in the whole history of the Caribbean literature in terms of the alienation, identity crisis and the subsequent madness and tragic death of a colonized wife under the colonial and patriarchal rule of a colonizer husband. This dilemma of the loss of identity, which is quite common to every Creole woman in the Caribbean literature, is discussed by O‘Callaghan (1993) as:   With neither blackness, nor ‗Englishness, nor economic independence to sustain her, [the white Creole woman] is excluded from all groups that matter to her and subjected to cruel paradoxes: having privilege without power; sharing oppression with the solidarity and support of fellow victims . . . the product of two cultures, she is denied and despised by both. (pp. 33-34). 3. ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION WSS shows the double colonization of the female Creoles  Antoinette and her mother in very elaborate terms by representing a number of factors in this regard. Firstly, all the miseries, plights, and problems of Antoinette and her mother  Annette are, by one way or the other, the result of their affiliations to the Whites. Antoinette, the protagonist, is a Creole descended from the colonial plantation owners, and her father has had many children by Negro women. But she is accepted neither by the Negro community nor by the representatives of the colonial centre. As a White Creole, she is nothing. In fact, the very first sentence of the novel hails the arrival of the whites as a bad omen: ―They say when the trouble
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