An unconventional structure

Three part structure

Wide Sargasso Sea has an unconventional structure. Instead of the usual chapter divisions, it is arranged into three parts of unequal length. These parts are divided into sections, sometimes indicated by an asterix.

The three parts follow a chronological order from Antoinette's childhood to her imprisonment at Thornfield Hall. This arrangement is to some extent dictated by the ‘master-narrative' of Jane Eyre. However, within this broad chronological arrangement Jean Rhys' novel evades the demands of the ‘master narrative' by:

  • Breaking up the chronological order by using flashbacks, premonitions of the future and other ways of restructuring time and its significance
  • Avoiding the closure imposed by Bronte's plot. The ambiguous ending of Wide Sargasso Sea deliberately leaves open the question of what happens to Antoinette.

In leaving her novel open in this way, Jean Rhys connects the formal structure of her novel to its overarching themes, opposition to racial and patriarchal domination.

Other ways of structuring the novel

Structure in Wide Sargasso Sea can be considered in different ways. Some of these have already been discussed in other sections. You will be guided to these in a reference in the following list:

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