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Study Guide: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jane Rhys - Free BookNotes

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WIDE SARGASSO SEA: FREE LITERATURE NOTES

PART ONE - SECTION TWO

Summary

Antoinette awakened at her Aunt Cora’s house, feeling upset that her hair had been cut, but comfortable to be in a nice bed. Aunt Cora explained that the Luttrells had helped get the family to safety, but Pierre had died. Annette had been taken to the country to recover. Antoinette remembered having heard her mother’s hysterical screams, but did not mention it to her aunt.

She went to visit her mother, bringing Christophine along. Annette was barely recognizable. When Antoinette hugged her mother, Annette tightly returned the embrace, then suddenly flung Antoinette away, violently. The caretakers, a black couple, scolded Christophine for bringing “the child to make trouble, trouble, trouble.”

Aunt Cora sent Antoinette to a convent school. Though reluctant to leave her Aunt Cora’s friendly house, Antoinette forced herself to walk to the school. On the way she was followed by two children who bullied her and taunted her about being crazy like her mother. Sandi Cosway, one of Antoinette’s father’s illegitimate children ran over and scared the bullies away. He helped Antoinette with her books, and then chased after the bullies. Upon arriving at school, Antoinette collapsed into tears and was comforted by the nuns. She was assigned to another student, Louise de Plana, who the nuns seemed to consider impeccable.

While at the convent, Antoinette thought about her mother, but received no word of her. Her days were spent on lessons about the saints and personal virtues. She felt the convent was a place of refuge, but not happiness.


During this time Christophine had gone to live with her own son, Aunt Cora had moved to England, and Mr. Mason traveled abroad for months at a time. When in town, Mr. Mason visited the convent and brought Antoinette gifts. On his last visit he explained that Antoinette would leave the convent and he would present her to society.

Antoinette was afraid to leave the safety of the convent. She had another dream about a forest, but this time she followed the man in the dream rather than running from him. When she saw his face it was “black with hatred” and he forced her to go with him through an unfamiliar garden and up some steps to what Antoinette thought was hell. Antoinette was so disturbed she awoke crying out and shivering. A nun comforted her with some hot chocolate. The hot chocolate reminded her of her mother’s funeral, attended only by Mr. Mason, Christophine and Antoinette. Thoughts of her mother mixed with the thoughts of her dream.

Notes

In this part, Antoinette’s narrative is disjointed and does not follow a linear time frame. She makes word associations that bring her to thoughts of her mother (see Quotes). The reader sees that Antoinette is battling her inner loneliness and gloom.

Aunt Cora briefly mothers Antoinette, then sends her away to school and leaves the country. Christophine has gone to her own son. The only security Antoinette has is at the convent. Here she is safe from her past, from racial hatred, and from the social and economic control of men. In this world of women, she forgoes happiness and settles for refuge.

Her peace is disrupted when Mr. Mason has the opportunity to use Antoinette to further his transactions with other white men. She senses the evil and has another forest dream, which foreshadows her unhappiness at Granbois (translation: great forest) and her captivity in unfamiliar England.


PART TWO - SECTION ONE

Summary

In Part Two, the narrative is taken over by Antoinette’s new husband. He and Antoinette were married and en route to honeymoon at Granbois, an estate that had belonged to Annette, just past a village called Massacre. He presents himself as a victim. He was ill at ease in Jamaica where he had spent weeks with a fever, and he was uncomfortable with his new wife who, though beautiful, was unfamiliar to him. He was paid 30,000 pounds to agree to this marriage, and this arrangement enabled him to become independent of his father and brother in England.

On the way to Granbois, he was overwhelmed by his surroundings. He was as uneasy as his Creole wife was comfortable with the people and environment. The servant, Amelie, who traveled with them, noted this and flirted maliciously with him.

When they arrived at Granbois, Antoinette felt at home. Christophine was there and Antoinette’s husband felt her suspicion. The newlyweds were welcomed with rum punch and crowns of frangipani. He crushed the flowers with his feet and retired to his dressing room. There he wrote a letter of reassurance to his father.

Notes

Antoinette’s husband is never actually called by name in Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys denies him this identity referring to him as “the man” or “husband”. We know his name, Rochester, from of the character in Jane Eyre. In Part Two we get his perspective on the events that led up to him locking Antoinette (Bertha) in the attic. In his eyes, his Creole bride is strange. That fact that she is so comfortable with the black servants and the uncivilized, tropical surroundings makes him hesitant to accept her.

At remote Granbois, the white male is now the outsider. He feels alienated just as Antoinette did in Part One. His feelings of distrust surface at the very beginning when he is told that it was not slaves, but others that were killed at Massacre. These feelings, however, do not prevent him from behaving condescendingly in the house that Antoinette perceives as her own.

The letter he writes to his father alludes to the fact that the Masons had arranged this marriage.


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