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  • Critical Methodology 110-111

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From a Freudian Psychological standpoint, Antoinette becomes less and less of a reliable narrator, shown in her inability to remember the assault she committed against Richard, as well as understand why it happened. Freud's model of the psyche includes the Id, the "completely unconscious part of the psyche that serves as a storehouse of our desires, wishes, and fears," as well as the Ego, the "mostly to partially conscious part of the psyche that processes experiences and operates as a referee or mediator between the Id and superego," and the Superego, "often thought of as one's "conscience"; the superego operates "like an internal censor [encouraging] moral judgments in light of social pressures" (Seigel, n.p.). Her panic when she believes her dress was changed, "But I held the dress in my hand wondering if they had done the last and worst thing, If they had changed it when I wasn't looking. If they had changed it and it wasn't my dress at all- but how could they get the scent?", showcases her inability to grasp an understanding of an sudden onset of panic and intuition, suggesting a malfunction of the ego, her center for processing. (Rhys, 111). One could argue that she isn't fretting over her dress at all, but instead wondering if she, as a person, was different, and if any of her captors had anything to do with it. Her assertion that "if I had been wearing my red dress Richard would have known me," and her ommitance of her own actions as an assailant further suggests that she no longer is able to distinguish between right and wrong, and is therefore attempting to create explanation where there is none; believing that a small matter like her clothing choices had an unreasonable amount of influence on the situation (Rhys, 110). Antoinette's desperation for her male masters to "recognize" her and her situation, however, shows her Superego may still be functioning as she conforms her "moral judgements in light of social pressure," rather than following only her most basic psyche, her Id. Her attack on Richard most likely stemmed from her Id; aimless passion, violence, and fear (Seigel, n.p.) Her break from reality and the passage of time within the last parts of the story lead to a question of how sane Antoinette truly is; if her account of events is reliable enough for readers to trust that her narration is a credible recollection of the events in her life, or if her insanity has warped her judgement enough that only Rochester's and Grace's accounts can be relied upon for more subjective narrative. The line "Infamous daughter of an infamous mother" also suggests a hereditary answer to her slow but sure insanity (Rhys 110). Her mother was also declared insane before she died, and so Antoinette going insane could be genetic, or could be a result of the expectations placed on her to end up exactly like her mother (which she did do), trapped and untrusted. True to Freud, if Antoinette has lost touch with the Ego facet of her psyche, only able to act as she thinks she should but with no understanding of why she must do so, the reliability of her narrative of the events is at risk, and therefore cannot be naively trusted by readers.

 

 

"Psychoanalytical Criticism." Introduction to Modern Literary Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

"Feminism" Introduction to Modern Literary Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Rhys, Jean, and Charlotte Brontë. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton, 1992. Print.