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.
in-depth analysis of Antoinette.
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.
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
in-depth analysis of Rochester.
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.
in-depth analysis of Christophine.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
of servants at Granbois, the overseer of the mansion. Baptiste is
a dignified man of advanced age.
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.
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.
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.
cook employed by Antoinette's husband. Leah is one of only three
servants who know about the woman in the attic.
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
groom. Mannie is one of the new servants who Mr. Mason brings to
Christophine, a black servant who distinguishes herself by not being
Jamaican. Maillotte is Tia's mother and Christophine's only friend.