Skip over navigation

Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Part Two, Section Nine

Part Two, Section Eight

Part Three, Section One

Summary

On a cool, cloudy day, Rochester senses the approaching hurricane season. He wonders if anyone pities him for being married to "a drunken lying lunatic." He does not love Antoinette but wants to control her, at least make her his madwoman. He thinks of her as a shameless, crazy whore "gone her mother's way," and he aims to hurt her by taking her away from the island she loves. He has already arranged their trip to England.

On the day of their departure, Antoinette remains expressionless. Once so rapturous about the tropical landscape, she now seems indifferent. She no longer sings the island songs or recites its lore, but instead looks silently at the sea. Rochester, on the other hand, feels some sadness as they leave Granbois. Looking at Antoinette, he asks her silently to forgive him, but retracts when he sees hatred in her eyes. He stares at her in order to force the hatred out of her eyes, making her eyes appear blank and lifeless.

A young boy carrying baskets suddenly begins to sob as they prepare to leave. Rochester recoils at the boy's raw emotion. When he asks the servants what is wrong, none respond. With an indifferent tone, Antoinette tells Rochester that the boy loves him and that she herself promised the boy that Rochester would never leave him. Rochester is enraged that she made a promise in his name. Still sounding indifferent, Antoinette apologizes for her misconduct. She remains unmoved even as she parts from Baptiste—proof for Rochester that she is fully crazy. He is anxious to lock her away in England so that she can become "a memory to be avoided."

Analysis

In this section, descriptions of the island bear increasing similarity to England, mirroring Rochester's movement back to his own terrain. Just as Rochester wills all emotion out of Antoinette's eyes, so he wills all tropical elements out of the landscape. He commands the "brazen" sun to leave the sky as he repeats the words "no sun, no sun." He thus forces his own impressions on the landscape, which begins to appear more cool and gray. In a sense, Rochester has gained as much mastery over the land as he has already gained over Antoinette. Indeed, he explicitly conflates Antoinette with the land when he describes her as a tropical tree broken by the wind; he serves as the wind that has forcibly uprooted her from her native soil. Rochester has asserted control over the tropics.

That Antoinette appears lifeless seems to confirm her earlier description of "two deaths": she is a living corpse, a hollow shell. It is as if Rochester has appropriated obeah magic to his own cruel purposes. By thinking and wishing Antoinette dead, he has made her lifeless. Rhys thus manifests the dangerous power of the unconscious mind, as well as the close link between fantasy and reality.

An emblem of feeling, the sobbing boy shows how cruel Rochester has become. The boy exposes his emotions with an openness that the Englishman scorns. Rochester, shut off from the world of feeling, cannot comfort the boy or even communicate with him. The boy "hasn't learned any English that [Rochester] can understand," even though Antoinette says that the boy has been trying hard to learn it. The boy's inability to communicate with Rochester highlights the cultural and linguistic blocks between the Englishman and the natives. It is this misunderstanding that makes Rochester pitiless and harsh.

More Help

Previous Next
Context

by buckindisguise, March 01, 2014

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

Follow Us