The presentation of relationships and marriage is a significant concept within literature and society. The writers of the texts; ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ and ‘The World’s Wife’, investigate the male centric ideal that was upheld and strengthened by a social structure, wherein women had minimal political or financial force. They were financially, socially, and mentally reliant on men, particularly on the establishments of marriage and parenthood in the Victorian era when ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ was set. On the other hand, men battled to expand their notoriety in the public eye by increasing social and monetary force and status, to have a predominant picture and prevailing character in relationships and marriage. In ‘Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys introduced women to be obliged to obey men somewhat, in this manner there is an explicit indication of relationships and marriage being unequal. Whereas in ‘The World’s Wife,’ Rhys presents the female speakers as autonomous as they reject male dominance. ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ is a 1966 postcolonial novel by author Jean Rhys, who explores difficulties that arise when relationship and marriage are put in difficult situations and even forced, Wide Sargasso Sea is both a response and a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, set in the West Indies that examines how society enforces its view and shapes people to conform to certain expectations society poses upon an individual. The Worlds Wife’ is a collection of poems published in 1999. Carol Ann Duffy gives famous female characters in histories and myths, a voice and focuses on men within a relationship, and in Duffy’s well-known feminist way, she presents them anew for the public to observe and ponder the true current and previous state of relationships. The writers of both texts explore the factor of male dominance and the loss of identity in relationships and marriage. Conflict arises when characters are being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility their husbands/wife, leading the relationship or marriage to be overwhelming and unequal in literature. Antoinette’s conflict is Rochester’s emotional distance and accusations of madness. Whilst his conflict is with Antoinette’s exotic strangeness and disturbing behaviour.
Both writers have different intentions in presenting the role of men. While in Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys explores the destructive impact of Rochester on Antoinette’s life. The more Antoinette suffers from the human suffering he has created, the less human he treats her as ‘a doll … a marionette,’ a plaything and an instrument to be exploited. At the very end of the book, he portrays her, with skin-crawling patronage, as if she were not the victim of her death, as ‘only a ghost … nothing left but hopelessness’.’ And then, like all sadists, he loves torturing his prey, purporting to be insane, and trying all he can to deceive her before he is dead. Rochester adjusts to some manly generalisations yet as the novel creates, these are progressively tested by his involvement with the Caribbean. By all accounts, Rochester shows a cliché predominance as a nineteenth century colonialist Englishman: His desires for ladies of his class as shown when he states “To women who please me only by their faces, I am the very devil when I find out they have neither souls nor hearts—when they open to me a perspective of flatness, triviality, and, perhaps, imbecility, coarseness, and ill-temper; but to the clear eye and eloquent tongue, to the soul made of fire..”. Rochester reacts to Jane ‘s declaration of sovereignty by maintaining that he simply wants a woman who is autonomous and solid of character and voice. He proceeds to define all the special characteristics he admires in Jane. In his desire for a woman like Jane, Mr. Rochester ‘s character conflicts with the assumptions of the gender position of a male character. Although the men of his social class are supposed to like women who cause themselves to be held or stay irrelevant, Mr. Rochester prefers the opposite. When Antoinette neglects to arrive at these norms in his eyes, he begins to consider her to be as being misleading and as non-English an outsider.
Robert Kendrick opines across his critical analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea that Jean Rhys utilised Edward Rochester, Antoinette’s husband, to outline the male centric restrictions of the period. He expresses that Rochester turns out to be “violently defensive” as he is lowered in a reality that does not hold similar limits and meanings of manliness and man centric predominance as he is used to. Kendrick continues to contend that, while Rochester has married Antoinette with the aim of picking up force, strength, and an adequate situation (for a male) in English society, he discovers his goals of these things are compromised by said marriage (just as by the Caribbean and its philosophies). In addition, Kendrick affirms that both Daniel Cosway and Sandi, mirror aspects of Rochester’s personality and these pairs further articulate Rochester’s manliness complex in a de-underscored way. Kendrick corroborates his argument by citing a text from ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, other writers who hold similar views, and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
In contrast, Carol Ann Duffy ignores patriotic views and deconstructs idea of male supremacy; her female speakers tell their own stories of their lives with men, whose roles are generally disparaged. Mrs. Beast is one of the last poems of the World ‘s Wife, summing up the entire intention of the World ‘s Wife: to offer a voice to women in history and literature, and to discuss elements of their lives and their identities. It calls attention to the past of male dominance and female repression by naming notoriously abused women and exposing bitter indignation in Mrs. Beast’s tone. Mrs. Beast opposes any wish associated with a male-oriented culture that represents Duffy’s disapproval of society’s preoccupation with and isolation of abused women. The quote, ‘The lady says that’s not where I meant?’ contradicts the sexual performance of the Beast, and we see her aggressively ordering him about – Ensuring that her being satisfied is a priority and not the needs of the beast. ‘The pig in my bed has been invited’, highlights that it is a blessing for the Beast to encourage him to be in her presence, enhancing his subordinate role next to her. ‘The Beast kept out of sight,’ shows us that he had to give her space when it was appropriate, but he also had to serve them in a poker game. He became her servant, obeying every order, and regulating whether she needs him next to her or not and so she takes this active role to reverse male domination by belittling him. An act of aggression when it is required to take action to oppress him. We can see that female dominance is created by transgressing gender norms. Furthermore, Duffy establishes traditional gender stereotypes within Delilah to consciously step away from them. The poem starts with the imperative, ‘Teach me,’ representing the bold, dominating character of Samson. The second stanza shows Samson speaking directly, in first person; the tone is boastful, and the vocabulary is aggressive ‘rip,’ ‘roar,’ ‘fire,’ and ‘flay.’ Samson relates his successes in declaratives: ‘There is nothing I fear.’ His voice stresses his dominating and powerful personality, the traditional traits for men.
In spite of the fact that Duffy’s sonnet ‘Little Red Cap’ commends the strengthening of a young lady looking for sexual and aesthetic agency, it also examines the power dynamics at play when a girl’s coming-of-age takes place at the hands of an older man. Through the disruption of a notable fantasy, the poem requests that the reader re-examines the functions of predator and prey inside more extensive societal systems of gender and power. From the beginning, as Little Red Cap pursues the wolf, the poem ends the conventional understanding of predator and prey. While she calls him ‘the wolf,’ it’s Little Red Cap who preys on him, making him ‘quite sure he spotted me, / sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif..’ Both descriptors suggest youth and inexperience, even frailty, which is not completely inaccurate — the speaker is just an adolescent with limited sexual experience. However, by attracting your attention to these qualities, the speaker is mindful of the role that she must play in capturing the wolf ‘s eye, even though she subverts the role by her concerted attempts to portray it. In other words , the speaker understands that she may use her naivety to draw the wolf, a reality that in itself illustrates some of the contradictory forces at stake, provided that the strength of the speaker arises, paradoxically, from her lack of strength. By foregrounding the viciousness that goes with the wolf’s sexual craving, ‘Little Red Cap’ puts forth the defence that even in a consensual relationship, driven partially by female sexual organisation, sexism and mistreatment are yet significant powers. This is particularly true of a relationship like the one in the poem, where the power imbalance between the wolf and Little Red Cap reinforces patriarchal influences on relations between men and women. Though the wolf is initially introduced as more prey than predator, once he becomes interested in the speaker, the poem shows him dominating their relationship. He ‘leads [her]’ into the woods, controls her with his ‘thrashing fur ‘ and ‘heavy matted paws,’ and ‘lick[s] his chops’ as he crushes the speaker’s independence. And if the speaker has sexual appetite and agency, it is also articulated in a bigger world where men like the wolf have more control. Towards the end, the poem portrays the aggression and cruelty of the sexual appetite of the wolf. The speaker states ‘be aware’ when she reaches the ‘wolf’s lair’ before her first sexual experience she describes the garments she leaves behind, both the act of undressing and the lack of innocence as ‘murder clues.’ Eventually, as the speaker picks up understanding and shrewdness, she understands that despite having sexual agency, she needs identity as she still lacks true independence. The 6th verse catches her bafflement with the wolf and gives her developing consciousness of the harsh idea of their relationship. She compares her situation to a “mushroom / stopper[ing] the mouth of a buried corpse.” By murdering the wolf, however, the speaker breaks free from the age-old power dynamic playing out between them and upends the patriarchal norms that have shaped her. In addition, when the speaker finds ‘my grandma’s [virgin white] bones’ inside the wolf’s body, the poem infers that their relationship ought to be perceived as a component of a bigger history of men misusing woman. It proposes that not just has the speaker exerted her own independence, she has likewise struck a blow at ages of male control.
In Carol Ann Duffy’s Worlds Wife, poems are about faulty love and the collapse of heterosexual relationships. The causes for their loss can be boiled down to three causes: objectification, dominance, and envy. In Pygmalion’s Bride, Pygmalion does not care for having a shared affection between him and his ‘statue,’ but rather for her beauty. He would rather see a statue of a living of a woman, because in essence he is just making women into a means of gratification, because he needs her to be obedient to all his demands. As a result, whenever the Galatea statue started to shift, he quickly fled away because of his immaturity. In addition, dominance is another aspect that results in the failure of relationships which is caused by men. This is clear in Thetis, as she wants to adjust for him to love her and to ‘find the right form for love’, but he changes his answer and keeps dominating her, she is reduced as a human by the more empowered male. She is already going to reshape herself to meet him ready to control her again and again. Similarly, in Wide Sargasso Sea, through the marriage of Antoinette and Mr. Rochester, we can clearly see a play of economic power and dominance. At one point, Antoinette runs to her long-time friend and nurse Christophine for advice about how to make Mr. Rochester pay attention to her and make him love her again. Christophine tells Antoinette to abandon Mr. Rochester and start all over again., “You ask me a hard thing, I tell you a hard thing, pack up and go”. Antoinette recognises she’s in a position where she’s politically helpless, “He will not come after me. And you must understand I am not rich now, I have no money of my own at all, everything I had belongs to him…that is the English law”. As Mr. Rochester appears on the island to marry Antoinette, Antoinette’s dowry and her estate are given. According to the English laws at that time, the husband was the sole owner of any wealth that the wife might have had before their marriage. The choices of Antoinette are minimal as she is dependent on her husband, and she can’t leave him and make a better life for herself. Antoinette ‘s aware of her limits as Thetis is of hers. She cannot simply end a loveless marriage and start anew as she is politically powerless. Other male members of Antoinette ‘s life have economic influence over her father and brother determine what to do with her dowry and her land.