Jean Rhys, 84, the noted British novelist who explored the theme of lonely and disconsolate women in a male-dominated world, died Monday at a hospital in Exeter, England.

Miss Rhys was born in the British West Indian colony of Dominica and lived in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s. Paris was the setting of many of her earlier novels and short stories. The novels "Voyage in the Dark" (1934) and "Good Morning Midnight" (1939) both won wide critical acclaim.

After World War II, Miss Rhys retired to a village in Devonshire in the West of England and became a virtual recluse. She emerged from obscurity after 1958, when a British radio producer advertised for news of her and she answered herself.

In 1966, she published "Wide Sargasso Sea," a fictional biography of the mad wife of Mr. Rochester, the hero of Charlotte Bronet's "Jane Eyre." It won several literary prizes and was a popular success as well.

Miss Rhys published another novel, "Tigers Are Better Looking", in 1967 and a collection of short stories, "Sleep It Off, Lady" in 1976.

Several of her stories were adapted for television and she became more widely known than at any time since she began writing in the 1920s.

In its obituary about her, The London Daily Telegraph said Miss Rhys was the voice of the lonely woman who "always wanted to be loved, and still more cherished, by a man, and always somehow lost him. Her subject was herself, and through herself all women abandoned and alone in a man's world."

Miss Rhys survived three husbands. Her survivors include one daughter.