Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Kimberly Manganelli, Committee Chair
Dr. Cameron Bushnell
Dr. David Coombs
This paper examines the character of Rochester as he is presented both in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847) and Jean Rhys' post-colonial response work Wide Sargasso Sea (1939). In both works, Rochester is portrayed as the consummate colonist who dominates the women he comes into contact with, metaphorically turning them into his colonized possessions. In order to explore the process of feminine subjugation and colonial mastery, Rhys utilizes the figure of the zombi, a traumatized victim deprived of all free will by a sorcerous bokor who uses the zombi as a source of labor. In this metaphor, scholars and critics like Sarah Juliet Lauro have traditionally seen Rochester as the colonizing-bokor while Jane and Antoinette/Bertha serve as his zombis. In my reading of Bronte and Rhys' works, I argue that Rochester is also a zombi-figure. He is a colonizer and a bokor, but he is also colonized himself by the idea of Empire. He is turned into a zombi who must fulfill the mandates of British Imperialism without feeling any genuine desire to do so. In this way, Rochester becomes something similar to Homi K. Bhabha's "mimic men," men who profess and expand the British Empire without ever being able to fully conform to the identity of a British male. Consequently, Rochester is also unable to fully zombify Jane and Antoinette/Bertha. They resist his control, threatening the stability of the Empire itself.
Whitaker, Chloe, "The Zombi of the British Empire: Rochester's Imperialist Drive in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea" (2016). All Theses. 2339.