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Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Part Two, Section One

Part One, Section Four

Part Two, Section One, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

Immediately after their wedding in Jamaica, Rochester and Antoinette spend several weeks in the Windward Islands at a small estate that belonged to Antoinette's mother, Annette, located near a town called Massacre. As they travel from Massacre to the honeymoon, they are caught in a downpour, driving Rochester, Antoinette, and a half-caste servant named Amelie to take shelter under a mango tree.

Antoinette recognizes a black woman named Caroline standing outside a hut on the far side of the road. Ignoring Rochester's protestations, Antoinette bolts across the street in the rain. He watches her critically and questions his hasty decision to marry a woman about whom he knows nothing. Only a month after arriving in Jamaica—three weeks of which Rochester spends in bed with fever—he finds himself with a Creole wife.

Antoinette returns to the tree where Rochester waits. She invites him to join her in her friend Caroline's house, but he refuses. Finally, the rain stops and the caravan continues on its way to Antoinette's family estate, called Granbois. Ill at ease in the strange tropical climate, Rochester concludes that "everything is too much"—too lush, too green, too fragrant. He reflects on the financial transaction that precipitated his marriage: the £30,000 that was unquestioningly paid to him. This money allows Rochester to be independent of his father and older brother in England and saves him from financial disgrace.

When they arrive at Granbois, Rochester finds the house awkward and run-down. Antoinette introduces him to the many servants, whom she greets with warmth and enthusiasm. Among the servants are Christophine, Antoinette's old nurse; Baptiste, a dignified man; and Hilda, Baptiste's perpetually giggling daughter. At his first sight of Christophine, Rochester feels her distrust.

Antoinette then leads Rochester through the empty, neglected rooms. He finds a refuge in his private dressing room, which formerly belonged to Mr. Mason. After viewing Granbois, Rochester drafts a letter to his father, assuring him that "all is well and has gone according to [his father's] plan" regarding the marriage transaction.

Analysis

Antoinette's husband remains nameless throughout Wide Sargasso Sea, but readers of Jane Eyre will recognize him as one of Brontë's characters, Rochester. Based on Brontë's hero, the English gentleman narrates almost the entirety of Part Two, giving voice to his perspective on the marriage with Antoinette and the events that lead him to lock her inhumanely in the attic. Rochester's villainous actions, while never condoned, are at least somewhat explained by his own suffering, confusion, and feelings of alienation.

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Context

by buckindisguise, March 01, 2014

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

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