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Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Part Two, Section Eight

Part Two, Section Seven

Part Two, Section Nine

Summary

Christophine blames Rochester for Antoinette's hysterical state. Christophine has been caring for Antoinette since Antoinette fled Granbois the morning after Rochester's tryst with Amelie. Over the last few days, Christophine has cared for, fed, and calmed Antoinette. Undressing Antoinette for bed, Christophine has seen evidence that Rochester is rough with her. Christophine says she knows all about crimes of passion.

Rochester accusingly asks Christophine what she has done to make his wife seem so transformed. Christophine scoffs at Rochester when he calls Antoinette his wife. She knows that he married Antoinette for the money and that he tried to fool her into loving him, getting her hooked on sex to control her. Christophine accuses Rochester of trying to "break [Antoinette] up," calling her names like "Bertha" and "Marionette" to further fragment her. Christophine also blames Rochester for intending for Antoinette to hear him having sex with Amelie, another deliberate attempt to harm her. Rochester silently admits to all of these charges.

Rochester then presses Christophine again to tell him why Antoinette is so changed. Christophine admits to giving Antoinette some rum to soothe her. On hearing this, Rochester accuses Christophine of turning his wife into a drunk. Christophine, in turn, pleads with Rochester to try loving Antoinette. Hearing that he will not, Christophine asks him to return half of Antoinette's dowry and to put Antoinette in Christophine's care.

Rochester considers this option until Christophine mentions a remarriage for Antoinette, at which point Rochester orders Christophine out of his house and threatens to call the police. He decides to take Antoinette to see doctors in Spanish Town. Christophine spits on the floor in anger, suspecting that Rochester will conspire with the doctors to declare Antoinette mad and lock her away, just as Mr. Mason treated Antoinette's mother.

After Christophine leaves, Rochester writes to his father that he and his wife are returning to Jamaica for "unforeseen circumstances," insinuating that his father knows what he means. In his mind, Rochester accuses his father of never caring for him and of conspiring to get rid of him. As Rochester writes, a cock crows outside his window, and he throws a book at it. Drinking rum, he sketches a childlike drawing of a house, surrounded by tress, with a stick-figure woman looking out from a window.

Analysis

The confrontation between Christophine and Rochester pits the feminine world of the tropics against Rochester's more rational and masculine—according to Rochester's worldview—English culture. Both culture and gender collide in this encounter. Authoritative and defiant, Christophine breaks every colonial taboo: she is a black servant who condemns and humiliates a wealthy white man. She becomes his judge, demanding that he explain his tryst with Amelie. Generations of white slave owners before Rochester have slept with their servants, but the times have now changed; a new order has replaced the old one. Rochester, who is trying to emulate the more powerful Englishmen before him, is surprised that he is held accountable for such an act. His manhood and the privilege of his race consistently fail him with Christophine, who emasculates him with her demand that he confess. In this regard, Christophine challenges the colonial power structure.

When Christophine accuses Rochester of "breaking" Antoinette, he remains speechless, not responding to her litany of questions. Christophine assumes total control of their dialogue; all Rochester does is repeat her words to himself silently. Christophine thus silences Rochester just as Rochester silences Antoinette by refusing to listen to her. Rochester becomes Christophine's speechless marionette, her puppet, much as Antoinette is his marionette. Indeed, Rochester explicitly identifies with Antoinette when he imagines himself in the place of his wife. Antoinette's words invade his narrative thoughts as he contemplates what she must have said to Christophine about his affair with Amelie. Christophine's dialogic control aligns Rochester—albeit for a short time—with his powerless wife.

As Rochester listens to Christophine, he is inundated with many different voices, from Antoinette's to Daniel's. Rhys thus offers a glimpse into Rochester's unconscious and his unspoken thoughts. Often, Rochester is too self- restrained and rational to expose his inner self. The letter he writes to his father, for example, betrays little of Rochester's anger and resentment, but is instead formal and proper in tone. The only time Rochester does express his unconscious is when he absentmindedly doodles a drawing. As though his innermost thoughts were struggling to spell out a warning, the picture that he draws coincides with the future that he chooses; the reader of Jane Eyre recognizes the significance of Rochester's scribbled picture of a woman staring out from the attic window.

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Context

by buckindisguise, March 01, 2014

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

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