Study Guide: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jane Rhys - Free BookNotes|
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WIDE SARGASSO SEA: LITERARY ANALYSIS / BOOK REPORT
Antoinette’s demeanor at this point disturbed her husband. He had taken to calling her “Bertha” which she did not like. He asked her what happened at Christophine’s and said that the old woman may be right about the couple spending some time apart. Antoinette was not pleased with this idea, but gave in to her husband and offered him a glass of wine.
The wine contained the potion from Christophine. Eventually he lost consciousness and woke the next morning vomiting, thinking he had been poisoned. He looked at Antoinette seeing her incredible beauty, but feeling hatred. He noted the “frown between her thick eyebrows, deep as if it had been cut with a knife.” Then she seemed young again. Afraid she would awaken, he covered her as if covering a dead girl.
He dressed and ran out of the house delirious. He slept outside, then woke and found his way back to the house. He shut himself inside his dressing room. Amelie came to care for him. She brought food and wine and fed him like a child. They laughed together and he pulled her into bed with him. He did not consider until the next morning the fact that Antoinette could hear the sexual activity across the thin partition between their rooms. Amelie dressed to leave and he paid her generously. She took the “present” without any giving thanks as she left.
He had previously written a letter to a friend in Spanish Town. His friend’s reply came and he learned that Christophine had once been in jail and could be arrested again if the man felt she was causing trouble. Soon after he read the letter, Antoinette returned. She went directly inside without speaking to him.
He went to her room and found her in shocking condition. Her hair was uncombed and her eyes were swollen and staring. She was shrieking for Christophine to come. She shouted accusingly at her husband, who called her “Bertha” in response. He had ruined the comfort she felt at Granbois and she hated him for it. He grabbed Antoinette’s wrist and she bit him ferociously. Then Christophine came in and comforted Antoinette while the man stepped outside.
He and Christophine discussed what had happened to Antoinette. Christophine had been caring for her and spoke knowingly about the man’s physical roughness during sex. He accused Christophine of changing his wife. Christophine scolded him for calling Antoinette his “wife”. She knew the marriage had been a financial arrangement and that he used sex to control Antoinette. She further charged him with deliberately trying to “break” Antoinette by calling her “Bertha” and having sex with Amelie within earshot of Antoinette.
The man then blamed Christophine for drugging Antoinette and addicting her to rum. In response Christophine told him to try loving Antoinette again or at least return some of Antoinette’s money so she could go on in Christophine’s care. He ordered Christophine out of the house threatening to call the police. He said he would take Antoinette to see doctors. Angered, Christophine spat on the floor and told the man that she knew he would have the doctors and Richard Mason say that Antoinette was mad, and then keep all of her money. Christophine had given Antoinette something to help her sleep and she left without saying goodbye.
Antoinette’s husband wrote a letter to his father saying he was returning
to Jamaica for “unforeseen circumstances”. He then wrote to his lawyer
to make the arrangements. As he wrote he heard a cock crow and threw a
rock at it, but the cock persisted. He took a drink of rum and drew a
picture of a house surrounded by “English trees” with a stick figure of
a woman in the third floor window.
This section is full of cultural and gender role reversals. The first reversal comes as Antoinette’s husband seeks help from Daniel Cosway. The “powerful” white colonial, under threat, goes to the home of a man of color for information and assistance. Then, after touting his own masculinity and independence, Daniel assumes the female role of having to ask for money. When we see that the interaction ends up being money driven, we are reminded of Tia’s relationship with Antoinette and how it was tainted by money.
At home the man regains some control. He notices the line on Antoinette’s forehead, the same as Antoinette had noticed on her mother, a sign of pain, misery and disturbance. Throughout this section the oppression that pushes Antoinette closer to madness is felt strongly. As Antoinette sleeps, he covers her like a corpse, symbolizing Antoinette’s spiritual death. Because of money, she is trapped by her husband. Conversely, it is his money that sets Amelie free and allows her to leave.
In the dialog between Antoinette’s husband and Christophine, the powerful position associated with being male and English again fails him. Christophine, black and female, offers a hard analysis of his character. She assumes control of the conversation, her words echoing in his head. She refuses to heed his words just as he has refused Antoinette.
When the man writes to his father, though the letter is proper, it implies
that the father knew of the madness in Antoinette’s family and the situation
that the man would end up in. He does not outwardly express his feelings.
He does not recognize (at the end of the section) the cock crowing again
as the biblical example of a warning of betrayal. However his drawing
illustrates his thoughts and has obvious significance with relation to
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. 09 May 2017