Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys chronicles the experiences of Antoinette a white girl of the creole lineage. Antoinette is a white girl living amongst the liberated slaves of the Caribbean islands. The author brings out the challenges faced by the woman right from her troublesome formative years Jamaica to the upheavals that rock her marriage with an Englishman. The story details the challenges of a society torn in between by patriarchal wars intertwined with racial hegemony. In contrast to the norm, Antoinette experiences dislike from both the whites and the blacks making her life literally a labyrinth whose end is uncertain. Her husband unceremoniously renames her to Prosaic Bertha after which he declares her mad and forces her to relocate to his ancestral home, England (Guragain, 34). The author incorporates the themes of harshness related to displacement and the conflicts emanating from the apparent male chauvinistic societal beliefs.
It is quite evident from the onset that issues of racial animosity characterize the Caribbean’s society as it plays out in the lives of the major characters. Antoinette is a white creole living in a blacks dominated community. As such, she is alienated right from her childhood by the people she would have regarded as being her close friends. Her relationship with Tia apparently did not turn out to be the cliché that is expected of the children who grow up together. In contrast, Tai was prone to mistreating Antoinette whenever they were alone as depicted in the activities that took place when they were swimming together. Tai grabbed Antoinette’s clothes leaving her with dirty ragged pieces of clothes to console herself with. Tai had expressed her discontent with the manner in which her mother Christophine had treated Antoinette by giving her money. Therefore, the snatching of her clothes was a conspiracy not only to disgrace her but also to snatch the coins from her. The epitome of this animosity between Tia and Antoinette develops during the hurried ejection that takes place. Innocently, Antoinette tried running towards Tia for the purposes of solace when the locals attacked their home. To her surprise, her presumed friend threw a stone at her injuring her in the process. This altercation opened her eyes to the cold hatred of the locals towards them. Apparently, it effectively played a role towards the isolation that hovered over her life. On the other hand, the fact that Antoinette’s husband is saddened by her lack assertiveness in the manner in which she interacted with the servants paints a picture of a man who had racial prejudice ingrained in his mind. He could not fathom why his wife could not take advantage of the privileges accorded to her by her “white skin”.
Moreover, superstition, a factor rarely associated with the western world is visibly entrenched in Antoinette’s world. Christophine becomes the talk of the locality courtesy of her association with dark magic the voodoo. Due to the close terms between the two, the former becomes absorbed into the dark world. Her inkling to usurp the magic’s protection elements during her family’s eviction from their quarters highlights the extent of the Christophine’s influence in Antoinette’s life. She apparently yearns for it only that it was not within her reach. Later in life, the hunger for magical powers drives her to seek the help of Christophine in not only taming her husband but also making him like her more. However, the crowing of the cock and the accompanied awkward feelings by the voodoo priestess portend a dark future for her. The repercussions from the association with the dark side resonate throughout her life. Her husband shows outright dislike to her but for the occasional lust which crops up and functions as the only lifeline to their otherwise dead relationship.
The male hegemony over their female counterparts rears its ugly head in the experiences of Antoinette. Her marriage to British husband makes it imperative upon her that whenever she has a desire to exit the marriage, then she has to relinquish all her wealth to her husband. This realization effectively locked Antoinette to her husband, as exiting the marriage would be a contemplation of suicide. Moreover, from the onset, it is clear that the husband would always have his way with all the issues pertaining their marriage. The women represented by Antoinette are reserved the back sits when it comes to decision making (Hope, 12). As such, the women are relegated to the position of rubberstamping and implementing whatever their husbands had dictated. The demand to relocate to England is a clear indication of the power that the husband had, in spite of the misgivings that Antoinette had developed concerning the place she had the prerogative to follow her husband’s commands without which dire repercussions like the one highlighted above would follow. Apart from that, the experiences of Antoinette’s husband when he wanders off into the forest courtesy of the revelations concerning his wife’s past reveal a man who was cruel to the women. A young girl in the forest screams on seeing him, this alone gives as a reflection of how the man was perceived by the outsiders. He also does not ask permission from her wife before proceeding to look for Daniel from whom he needed to get advice concerning his wife. His pride makes him overlook all other options like getting his wife’s viewpoint on the issue as such he is blinded.
Isolation as a factor related to displacements occurs severally across the story. For instance, Antoinette’s husband with the advice from his family moves into Jamaica in search of a companion. The new environment from the onset effectively alienates him from the locals. In contrast to his home, Antoinette’s husband discovers that Jamaica is a very hot place both realistically and metaphorically speaking. The fever that strikes him helps to entrench this reality further. In the course of his sickness, he is bedridden for many days. On his recovery, he was immediately married to Antoinette, a fact that does not help improve the state of affairs. In contrast, the husband is hit by the realization that he has been married to someone whom he knew nothing about. This aspect a lot threatens to alienate him from the rest of the society for the rest of his life. The new environment, on the other hand, proves a hard nut to crack. He finds it completely difficult to take in the overly serene environment combined with the lush green bushes. The lines “I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it” alludes to this fact.
Besides the environment, the indigenous people’s way of life was quite alien from his perspective. The manner in which they reacted towards the white race was contrary to the impression imparted on him prior to him leaving home. Not only did the blacks resent them but also disregarded the existence of white superiority. The manner in which they interacted with his wife completely put him off.
Moreover, the alienation aspect is highlighted in the case of Antoinette’s husband when he realizes that his family might have conspired to marry a lunatic. He feels all alone in a world that is unfamiliar with his sufferings. The same case applies to Antoinette whose recognition to either race does not succeed. At the end, she ends up having to fight for her own course without the assistance of either the black or the white races. The racial aspect also damages Daniel’s prospects of leading a normal life. In fact, he was more alienated than Antoinette and her husband was as he was a product of a white father and a black mother. His father, alexander, was the biggest let down of them all as he rejected him. The father’s acceptance could have been pivotal in leveraging the self-confidence of the son, Daniel. This meant that he could not identify with either race. Therefore, he was doomed to a life of isolation and pain without the possibility of getting a consolation. Hence, he resorted to launching scathing attacks on his relatives and friends, with the likes of Antoinette being his victims. The denial led him to perform evil deeds in order to relieve the pain that he harbored within him. Christophine also cited isolation as a reason for her resignation from the position in which she held within the home. Apparently, Antoinette’s husband had been giving her a cold look that made her feel that she was not wanted within the place, and hence she had to hatch up a plan to resolve the standoff for the last time (Rhys, 54).
Ancestral weaknesses define the very existence of Antoinette. The difficult situation precipitated by their skin color elicited spiraling negative effects on both the physical and psychological health of her mother. This combined with their close quarters that they maintained with the widely acclaimed witch, Christophine effectively wedged a gap between them and their neighbors. Everyone detested them. As a result, she was eventually declared mad. The reality which Antoinette thought was long gone with her mother later came to haunt her courtesy of Daniel Cosway who knew about her dark past. Her husband on learning about these facts immediately regretted why he visited Jamaica in the first place. The immediate reactions on reading the letter from Daniel reflect the shock that struck him. The husband, who had been sitting at the pool, rushed back to the house trembling and sweating all the same time to an extent that he crushed an orchid on the way. Cosway, through the letter, had detailed of how Antoinette’s father was a vicious slave owner who was detested by all. Like her father, her mother was a lunatic who succumbed to her own dangerous ways. Because of this, the animosity between the couple grew much wider hence evoking the same results that were meted upon her mother in the past. The very people whom she thought she could closely identify with basing on their skin color had turned their back on her. The resultant isolation and the denial of the love of her life adversely affected her both physically and emotionally.
There is also a dependence of the more advanced races, the Caucasians- British on the less advanced black race. When Antoinette realizes that her husband is not in good terms with her and that he may abandon her, she decided to solicit the help of the Christophine and her Obeah magic. The latter hesitantly and with warnings brews her a love portion aimed at enhancing their love. Christophine is a not only from a perceived inferior race but also from a much lower class. However, this does not deter Antoinette from asking for her help in resolving marriage. Apart from Antoinette, her husband also solicits the help of an uneducated and poor creole, David. He is determined to dig up the truth about his wife and hence desperately confides in an individual who is way below his status (Geenty, 26).
Money dependence is also another theme quite evident in the storyline. The relationships highlighted all lend credence to money as the source of their strength. Antoinette’s husband had been allocated a huge salary that made him able to travel all the way from England to Jamaica hence meeting with his wife to be. Tia’s relationship with Antoinette was also defined by money. When she realized that the latter had been given some coins by her mother, she resolved to snatch them from her. This was ultimately the downfall of their childhood friendship. Christophine, on the other hand, chose not to get married as she greatly valued her financial independence. The money that she possessed gave her the power that she required in life hence she saw no need of getting married. David, on the other hand, was keen on not getting a wife for the basic reason that she would demand his financial support of which he was not ready to offer. Moreover, David also asks for money in exchange for the information he had given under the pretext that he would divulge the information to the public if he were not paid.
The author perfectly interwove different themes to come up with a free flowing and captivating story. Apart from that, the author has meticulously captured the relationship between the different races who existed during the period of its writing. The juxtaposition of characters from the different sides and bringing together in the setup helped to reveal the heated debate that existed. Moreover, the desire to make ends meet is seen as the major reason why those individuals from the high class meet with the less privileged. Generally, the reader can capture the mood of the setting as it was back in the 19th century.

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