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

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WIDE SARGASSO SEA: FREE ONLINE NOTES / BOOK SUMMARY

PART TWO - SECTION FOUR

Summary

Amelie brought the man a letter from Daniel Cosway, another of Antoinette’s father’s illegitimate children. In the letter, Daniel described Alexander Cosway as “wicked and detestable” and claimed that Old Cosway was a drunk who “died raving like his father before him.” He described Annette as “worthless and spoilt...a raging lunatic and worse besides”. He told of Antoinette’s “idiot” brother and how Antoinette behaved anti-socially as a child. Daniel’s intent was to warn the man about Antoinette and the madness in her family and to point out that everyone knew she was “going the same way as her mother”. He urges Antoinette’s husband to visit and learn more.


Disturbed by the letter, the man returned to the house and eavesdropped on a fight between Antoinette and Amelie. When he entered, Amelie pretended to cry but then left singing about a white cockroach. Antoinette was so angry she tore up her bed sheet.

Christophine came into the room and told Antoinette that she was leaving to work with her son. She and Antoinette’s husband didn’t get along and she did not want to cause any problems. Amelie reentered the room and smiled flirtatiously at the man. Christophine scolded her and threatened her. When the black women left, Antoinette tried to explain to her husband how alienated she felt not being accepted by the whites or the blacks. He did not respond.

He went for a walk in the forest all the while thinking that the people who arranged this marriage, his father, his brother and Richard Mason, knew of Antoinette’s madness. He was upset and became lost. He found a calm, beautiful place where there appeared to be the remains of a paved road. A girl passed by and screamed at the sight of him. He was found by Baptiste, a servant, and as they walked back to the house he questioned Baptist about the place and the road he had found in the woods. There had been bundles of flowers and the frightened girl, which lead the man to suspect ghosts or zombies. Baptiste claimed to know nothing.

Back at the house the man tried to go to Antoinette but her door was bolted. He requested a decanter of rum and read a book, The Glittering Coronet of Isles, turning to the chapter on obeah. He learned that a zombie can be a person or the spirit of a place and that blacks usually refused to speak of the black magic in which they believed.

Notes

The characters are all feeling the pain of rejection in this section. Daniel is racially split and though he presents his letter as his “Christian duty”, we see through his words that he is spiteful and alone. He grew up rejected by whites, blacks, and his own father. Antoinette is culturally split and grew up rejected by whites, blacks, and her own mother.

Now, Antoinette’s husband feels rejected and alone because no one has told him the truth. He left the mistreatment from his father and favored older brother in England only to find himself among enemies (Antoinette and Christophine) once again. Feeling that no one is on his side, he embraces Daniel’s information as validation that he has been manipulated and deceived.

His walk in the forest reminds us of Antoinette’s dreams. He feels as though he is being watched. Lost and alone, he feels the presence of the supernatural, the fear that something will harm him. Finding Antoinette’s door bolted when he returns to the house finally cements his isolation.

The introduction of the concept that a zombie can be not only a person whose spirit has been taken, but also the spirit of a place gives yet another explanation for Annette and Antoinette going mad. The last straw for Annette was the loss of Coulibri, which was her “place”. For Antoinette, who related more to nature than to people, it would be going to England, removing her from her island “place”. Antoinette’s husband on the other hand will be saved from becoming zombie-like when he is able to reinstate his inheritance and return to England, his “place”.


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