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Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Antoinette -  The daughter of ex-slave owners and the story's principal character, based on the madwoman Bertha from Charlotte Brontë's gothic novel Jane Eyre. Antoinette is a sensitive and lonely young Creole girl who grows up with neither her mother's love nor her peers' companionship. In a convent school as a young woman, Antoinette becomes increasingly introspective and isolated, showing the early signs of her inherited emotional fragility. Her arranged marriage to an unsympathetic and controlling English gentleman exacerbates her condition and pushes her to fits of violence. Eventually her husband brings her to England and locks her in his attic, assigning a servant woman to watch over her. Delusional and paranoid, Antoinette awakes from a vivid dream and sets out to burn down the house.

Read an in-depth analysis of Antoinette.

Annette -  Antoinette's young and beautiful mother. Annette is the second wife first to Alexander Cosway and later to Mr. Mason. The white Jamaican women ostracize Annette because of her beauty and outsider status—she is originally from Martinique. A disembodied presence throughout the book, Annette shows signs of madness and melancholy in her daughter's earliest recollections. Often the subject of gossip, she feels abandoned, scared, and persecuted. After the fire, Mr. Mason leaves Annette in the care of a black couple who reportedly humiliate her and mock her condition. Annette dies when Antoinette is at the convent school.
Rochester  -  Antoinette's English husband who, though never named in the novel, narrates at least a third of the story. Rochester, the youngest son of a wealthy Englishman, travels to the West Indies for financial independence, as his older brother will inherit his father's estate. When Rochester arrives in Spanish Town he comes down with a fever almost immediately. He is pressured into marrying Antoinette, although he has only just met her and knows nothing of her family. He soon realizes the mistake he has made when he and Antoinette honeymoon on one of the Windward Islands. Eventually, they abandon the Caribbean lifestyle Rochester has come to abhor. They move back to England, where he locks his deranged wife in an upstairs garret.

Read an in-depth analysis of Rochester.

Christophine -  A servant given to Annette as a wedding present by her first husband, Alexander Cosway. Christophine, like her mistress, comes from Martinique and is therefore treated as an outsider by the Jamaican servant women. A wise and ageless figure, Christophine is loyal to both Annette and her daughter, and she exercises an unspoken authority within the household. Christophine practices obeah, a Caribbean black magic, with which she tries to help Antoinette regain first her husband's love and then her sanity.

Read an in-depth analysis of Christophine.

Mr. Mason  -  One of the elegant English visitors who visits Antoinette's mother at Coulibri Estate. Mr. Mason is a wealthy Englishman who comes to the West Indies to make money. Captivated by his second wife's beauty, he intends to become even more prosperous by restoring Coulibri. He is confident in his authority to control the servants, believing them harmless and lazy and dismissing his wife's fears of revolt. Mr. Mason effectively abandons Annette and her daughter after the fire.
Aunt Cora  -  The widow of a prosperous slave owner. Aunt Cora lives alone in Spanish Town. Unlike Antoinette's own mother Annette, Cora nurtures and cares for Antoinette, and eventually enrolls her in a convent school. But eventually Cora, too, abandons Antoinette when she moves to England for a year. On her return, Cora tries to ensure Antoinette's financial independence by giving her a silk pouch and two of her treasured rings. Ill and in bed, Cora tells her niece that she does not trust Richard and that she fears that the Lord has forsaken them.
Alexander Cosway  -  Antoinette's deceased father. Alexander Cosway was a debased ex-slave owner known for fathering illegitimate children, squandering the family's money, and drinking himself into a stupor. His family lived on Jamaica for several generations as detested plantation owners; according to his bastard child, Daniel, madness ran in their genes. By the time Mr. Cosway died, leaving his second wife and their two children on their own, the Emancipation Act had led to the ruin of his sugar plantation and the end of his fortune.
Amelie -  A young half-caste servant who accompanies Antoinette and her husband to Granbois. The lovely and cunning Amelie snickers at her newlywed employers with a sort of knowing contempt, using her thinly veiled amusement to unsettle them. When Antoinette slaps Amelie for an impudent comment, Amelie slaps Antoinette back, calling her a "white cockroach" and smiling suggestively at her husband. Later, Amelie feeds and comforts Antoinette's husband, then sleeps with him. When he offers Amelie a gift of money the following morning, she refuses it and announces that she is going to leave Massacre and go to Rio, where she will find rich, generous men.
Sandi Cosway  -  One of Alexander Cosway's bastard children. Sandi helps his half-sister, Antoinette, when she is harassed on her way to school. Although Antoinette would like to call him "Cousin Sandi," Mr. Mason scolds her for acknowledging her black relatives. According to Daniel Cosway, Sandi is "more handsome than any white man" and is well received by polite white society. Daniel also suggests that Sandi and Antoinette were sexually involved as young children. Indeed, Antoinette's fragmented memory of a goodbye kiss with Sandi supports this possibility that the two may have been intimate at some point.
Daniel Cosway  -  Another of Alexander Cosway's bastard chidren. Daniel writes a letter to Rochester that informs him of the madness that runs in Antoinette's family. The half-white, half-black Daniel is a racially split counterpart to the culturally split Antoinette.
Richard Mason -  Mr. Mason's son by his first marriage. After studying for several years in the Barbados, Richard moves to Spanish Town, where he negotiates Antoinette's marriage arrangements after his father's death. He persuades the nameless English gentleman to marry his stepsister, offering him £30,000 and rights over the girl's inheritance. Later, Richard visits the couple in England and hardly recognizes Antoinette as the madwoman locked in the attic. She flies at him in a delusional rage, cutting him with a secretly obtained knife.
Tia -  Maillotte's daughter and Antoinette's only childhood friend. At the water pool, Tia betrays Antoinette by taking her pennies and stealing her clothes. Tia's disloyalty manifests the allure and corrupting power of money in the text. Like Mr. Mason and Mr. Rochester, she appears to covet money more than a loving relationship, whether it be a childhood friendship or a marriage.
Pierre -  Antoinette's mentally and physically disabled younger brother. While not explicitly stated, it is suggested that Pierre's illness is a result of inbreeding and physical decline in the Cosway family. When the house at Coulibri is set on fire, Pierre is trapped in his burning room for some time, and he dies soon after.
Mr. Luttrell -  One of Annette Cosway's only friends after the death of her husband. Mr. Luttrell lives at Nelson's Rest, the estate that neighbors the Cosway home. Suffering financial hardship in the wake of the Emancipation Act, in sudden desperation he shoots his dog and swims out to sea, never to be seen again. Distant relatives finally reclaim Mr. Luttrell's abandoned estate.
Baptiste -  One of servants at Granbois, the overseer of the mansion. Baptiste is a dignified man of advanced age.
Godfrey -  One of the old Cosway servants who stays on after the master's death. Godfrey is considered a greedy and untrustworthy "rascal," at least in Annette's view. He makes constant allusions to death and damnation.
Sass -  One of the servants who has been at Coulibri for several years, ever since his mother abandoned him there as a child. Sass leaves the estate when Annette's money runs out, but he returns when Mr. Mason arrives. Annette distrusts Sass, believing him to be greedy and self-serving.
Grace Poole -  A woman who answers an advertisement placed by Mrs. Eff for a servant to look after the deranged Antoinette. Grace is promised twice as much as the other household servants as long as she keeps her mouth shut and guards Antoinette well. Sharing the same garret space with Antoinette, Grace drinks frequently, often falling asleep with the garret key in plain view of her captor and charge.
Leah -  The cook employed by Antoinette's husband. Leah is one of only three servants who know about the woman in the attic.
Mrs. Eff -  An incarnation of Mrs. Fairfax and the head housekeeper at Thornfield Hall. While Mrs. Eff never appears in the novel, Grace mentions her in her conversation with Leah.
Mother St. Justine -  The head instructor at the convent school. Mother St. Justine tells the girls about the lives of female saints, instructs them on manners and cleanliness, and teaches them how to be proper Christian ladies.
Mannie -  A groom. Mannie is one of the new servants who Mr. Mason brings to Coulibri.
Maillotte -  Like Christophine, a black servant who distinguishes herself by not being Jamaican. Maillotte is Tia's mother and Christophine's only friend.

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Context

by buckindisguise, March 01, 2014

'Dominica' is a Leeward Island of the Caribbean, not Windward.

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