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Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Part Two, Section Four

Part Two, Section Three

Part Two, Section Five

Summary

Antoinette rides her horse past the "Mounes Mors" rocks—the "Dead Ones"—to Christophine's new house. Feeling that Rochester has become cold and angry, Antoinette seeks Christophine's advice on how to win him back. Christophine tells Antoinette to leave her husband, but Antoinette refuses.

Believing that women are fools to rely on their husbands, Christophine herself remains single and independent. She has had three children, all by different men, and has held onto her money. When Christophine urges Antoinette to take her inheritance and leave, she is shocked to learn that, according to English law, Antoinette's wealth now belongs to her husband. Undeterred, Christophine advises Antoinette to go to Martinique under the pretence of visiting a cousin. Antoinette takes the idea a step further, proposing that she go to England, a place whose existence Christophine questions.

However, Antoinette dismisses these fanciful thoughts and admits the real reason for her visit. She asks Christophine for a love potion. Christophine counters that white people should not play with magic, and that the potion will only make Rochester desire her, not love her. Instead, Christophine urges Antoinette to simply talk to Rochester, to explain her background and her feelings. Having already tried to reason with him, Antoinette says that he will not listen. She continues to plead for the potion.

Surprisingly, the old woman complies, drawing designs into the earth and rubbing them out mysteriously. Christophine leads Antoinette inside the small house to begin a ritual or incantation that we never see. Antoinette notices, as she enters the room, a heap of chicken feathers piled in a corner, and she later hears a cock crowing, a sign of betrayal. Riding away, Antoinette wonders how to interpret this sign as she presses the mysterious potion, wrapped in a leaf, against her skin.

Analysis

This section, narrated by Antoinette, affords a glimpse of her own impressions regarding Rochester, England, and her current unhappiness. Her narration draws Christophine back toward the center of the plot, whereas Rochester's narration has pushed Christophine to the margins. This focus on Christophine shifts the balance of power away from the white estate of the Creole landowner to the simple, two-room dwelling of a black ex-slave. Crossing lines of race and class, Antoinette's journey to Christophine's home reflects an instability in the traditional structures, and it invites a reversal of roles in which the ex-slave plays the part of knowing patriarch and the Creole heiress begs for her help.

European and Afro-Caribbean ideas of womanhood clash in the conversation between Christophine and Antoinette. Though Christophine urges independence, Antoinette cannot break from her husband, on whom she is financially and socially dependent. Like Coco, Antoinette has had her wings clipped by an Englishman. It is for this reason that Christophine questions why Antoinette would even want to go to England. That Christophine even doubts England's existence echoes Antoinette's earlier conversation with Rochester over "unreal" or "imaginary" places. However, Christophine knows that Antoinette's total dependence on Rochester is not imaginary, and she urges Antoinette to escape.

Premonitions of evil haunt Antoinette's thoughts and the surrounding landscape. The movement away from Granbois to the "Mounes Mors" rocks, or "Dead Ones," forecasts the plot's downward trajectory from the life of the forest to the spiritual death that awaits both Rochester and Antoinette. Indeed, Antoinette herself senses the evil that awaits her: she sees signs of betrayal in the cock crowing, and she feels that England will be a cold and unwelcoming place. Like her haunting forest dreams, these premonitions suggest that Antoinette possesses a sort of sixth sense—a gift that ties her to the supernatural, magical world of Christophine. However, Antoinette's whiteness and her European heritage render her unfit for the use of obeah magic; indeed, Christophine senses something taboo in giving Antoinette the potion. The exchange of money—a colonial accessory of power—for the rights to a spiritual ceremony sullies the transaction and seems to spoil the potion, subverting its effects. It seems that nothing can protect Antoinette from her downfall; evil haunts her actions and her surroundings.

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Context

by buckindisguise, March 01, 2014

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

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