Rochester- No more heroes anymore! 

Starter: As a Victorian male, rich and controlling, what might R find difficult about living in the Caribbean? (Feedback) 

Brainstorming what we know about Rochester. 

Read pages 39-50

How is the wedding described? 

Find evidence on page 40 to illustrate R’s love of power. 

How does R feel about the island setting for his honeymoon? (Pg42) 

What do we learn about R from the letter to his father? (Pg46) 

Why does he crush the frangipani leaf? What does it symbolise? 

Discuss how R&A talk to each other on pg 49 – what does this reveal? 


Tia continued…add to yesterday’s lesson. 

Explore why Tia is important- recap on what we know about her.

Mirrors; Tia is A’s dark double. 

Rhys uses mirrors to illustrate how identity is diminished through patriarchal oppression. 

“It was then I saw her – the ghost the woman with the streaming hair” (pg 154) 

Rochester forces A to become her mother’s double – same expression- symbolic of despair. 

Questions on the fire extract. 

Christophine and Tia ‘The ‘other’ that Antoinette desires to be’ – Wide Sargasso Sea.

I’m going to begin the lesson with a quick recap from last week – This will be on the board as the students arrive – they will have a couple of minutes and then be ready to respond to questions.

  • Define fatalism?
  • Name the three people who narrate the novel?
  • When was the novel published?
  • Define creole.
  • What three themes are evident in the opening pages?
  • When was the emancipation act?
  • What does the garden represent?

Develop: Christophine – What do we know about her? – Brainstorm. Read the description of her aloud. Discuss how and why she is different to the other black women in the novel.

Christophine is situated as an outsider in society immediately upon her introduction in the novel.

Find some quotations that show this.

Antagonist “This is a free country and I am a free woman”

Christophine asserts herself as an articulate antagonist of patriarchal and imperialist law.” Benita Parry (AO5 and AO3)

Character Development – Pair work to consolidate knowledge.

1. How would you describe the relationship between Christophine and Antoinette? Is there any evidence to suggest that she loves her?

2. How does Rochester view Christophine? How does she make him feel vulnerable? (consider AO3 context here) Find some evidence to support this?

We are then going to move on to Tia and the complexity of that relationship:

We will read the fire description on page 24 and then consider some critical theory (AO5)Lee Erwin – ‘Like in a looking glass’ (1989)

“The ruling desire of Antoinette’s narrative is for a fantasised union with blackness which will enable her to occupy the place of the other”

“the history of slavery that she strives to repress is precisely what Rochester strives to recover”

  • In what ways does Antoinette’s description of Tia throwing the stone match her feelings of internal pain at this time? Why does she leave out a description of the physical pain?
  • Why does Rhys use the phrase ‘like a looking-glass’ to describe Antoinette and Tia looking at one another?
  • What is the significance that Antoinette’s last detail of Coulibri is this confrontation with her former friend?




Setting in Sargasso

Continuing to focus on the opening pages of WSS we looked at the description of the garden – we’d dealt with the idea of fatalism and death imagery and this is extended in the description of the garden. There is strong biblical imagery and we discussed what this could foreshadow regarding the relationship between A&R we also looked at the contrasting life/death imagery and the fear of intensity/passion. How is Antionette characterised through the garden setting?

Brainstorming activity – what do we know about Christophine?

Bertha Writes Back!

This half-term is all about ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’

In Jean Rhys’ novel, ‘Bertha’ Mason is humanised by being given a proper story full of rich detail which is lacking in the original. Jean Rhys said of Bertha ” She seemed such a poor ghost. I thought I’d try to write her a life.”

‘Wide Sargasso Sea’  is a pretty radical, political, imagery laden text and this makes it complex, this, in addition to its postmodernist narrative can make it a challenge to teach.

I’ve decided to make my first lesson one that explores Jean Rhys and how her own life influenced the text and the significance of the setting.

But first I want to see what the students already know… A3 paper for pair work. 1min to write all they know about the text: then swap paper with another pair… what information can be added by the new pair…

“So between you and I …I often wonder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at all” – This quotation from the text could reflect Rhys own life just as much as it does Antoinette’s.

Rhys was born in Dominica – a Creole – she left in 1907 at age 17.

One definition of Creole – Person born in the West Indies but of European heritage (usually slave owners and their children)

WSS – published in 1966 the novel is based on her own isolation and insecurity, growing up where the main social group is poor, black and Catholic. Impacted on her whole life – creating vulnerability and a sense of otherness. In the novel there is a distance caused by gender, race and social grouping. Feelings of bitterness and mistrust prevail.

Discussion on the significance of the sea being in the middle of the North Atlantic – the only sea without a shore instead it is surrounded by different tropical currents.

Relevance of Emancipation act – in 1834 the British government passed at act to reduce slavery. Slaves were made into ‘apprentices’ – only children under 6 were made free. Considered to be a political deception – created fraught relationships.

Definition of fatalism and how it’s evidenced in the opening pages of the text.

“They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks” –

Class discussion and feedback on the following points:

1.How does this quotation suggest fatalism and how does it set up some of the significant themes of the novel?

2.Explain the technique used in this quotation: “My Father, visitors, horses, feeling safe in bed – all belonged to the past” What effect does it have?

3.Why are the place names ‘Nelson’s Rest’ and ‘Spanish Town’ significant?

4. Choose 3 quotations from pages 5 and 6 and explain how they evidence the family’s degraded place in society.

5. What do you think the use of Creole dialect adds to the novel?
Examples of student ‘What do I know’ brainstorm.


‘Jane Eyre’ – an icy blast!

I’ve just finished a half-term of teaching ‘Jane Eyre’ to year 12. Jane Eyre is not my favourite text to read (I know…I’m sorry…) but it is one of my favourite texts to teach. My students (in the main) have really worked well on it and they’ve been the catalyst for some fantastic discussion and insights.

Rather than going backwards and trying to cover all the resources that I’ve used I thought I’d just recap on a few of the favourites. The one that sticks in my head is St. John day –  when we looked in some detail at the characterisation of Bronte’s Ice King.

I began the lesson by showing this quotation: “While a virtuous man who performs works of charity, he does so with a grim sense of duty, and seems more motivated by carrying out his ideals than by genuine emotional sympathy with his beneficiaries” and students explored what they thought was meant by this and how we could link it to AO3.

If St. John had a theme song it would be ‘Ice Ice Baby!’ – why is this? This led to a discussion on Bronte’s use of imagery and fire/ice – Rochester etc… it also led to a very funny discussion on what songs we’d have for ‘Jane Eyre – The musical’ (an idea that I may well come back to before the exam!)

Ao5 came into play with Gilbert and Gubar and how St.John’s behaviour and ‘proposal’ could propel Jane’s response to be read as feminist – it became quite heated (unlike St.John!)

I then gave the students four extracts from different points in the novel with the following guidance:

You have several extracts regarding St. John to annotate:

In each extract, consider:

  • Description of appearance
  • Use of dialogue
  • The significance of Jane’s narration
  • Contextual influences

Fire and Ice:

  • Locate the passages in which both Rochester and St. John propose to Jane.
  • Make notes on what the extracts tell us about the similarities and differences between the two men.

The homework for this lesson was to write the opening paragraph plan the other paragraph and research the theory for the following questions:

‘Jane must learn to control her passions before she can ever be happy’ – how far do you agree?

‘Jane Eyre is a fairy-tale and nothing more important’ – do you agree?


‘All the male characters in Jane Eyre are a disappointment” – do you agree with this statement?