Annette, a white Creole woman from Martinique and the widow of an ex-slave owner, is Antoinette’s mother. Although the reader’s knowledge of her experiences is primarily limited to what young Antoinette can see and narrate in Part 1 of the novel, Annette’s psychological decline in the aftermath of losing both her first husband and her wealth foreshadows the fall from grace that her daughter will eventually experience through her relationship with Mr. Rochester. Including these parallels between mother and daughter, which emerge almost immediately in the first pages of the novel, allows Rhys to highlight the enduring, intergenerational impact of the sociopolitical forces working against them. Annette faces ridicule from those around her at Coulibri, for example, either because of her Martiniquais heritage or her association with economic exploitation and slavery. This outcast status is one which Antoinette inevitably inherits as she shares her mother’s unfavorable ancestry. Both women are also known for their captivating beauty, a characteristic which plays into the gendered power dynamics of their respective relationships. Rhys’s most explicit nod to their similarities, however, is the fact that Annette and Antoinette have almost identical names. Given that a name often serves as a symbol of an individual’s identity, this choice suggests that mother and daughter are equally vulnerable to the antagonism of their world.

Beyond the physical and cultural similarities that Annette and her daughter share, the way in which she mentally processes the hardships that befall her hints at how Antoinette will one day respond to her own oppression and rejection. Family members and household servants may try to keep Antoinette from seeing the full extent of her mother’s downward spiral, but what she does witness seems to become a subconscious model for her future behavior. At first, Annette is able to maintain her sense of pride despite her husband’s death and the loss of her wealth, but an unfortunate diagnosis of her son Pierre’s condition causes her to isolate herself and push Antoinette away. This reaction reveals her preference for her son, further isolates Antoinette, and marks the beginning of her descent into madness. 

Her relationship with Mr. Mason, who aspires to revive Coulibri and frequently displays his wealth, exacerbates her feelings of fear and helplessness as she loses even more control over her life. When the Black Jamaicans set fire to Coulibri to express their discontent, Annette’s nightmares become reality and her despair transforms into anger. This shift marks the final stage of her psychological downfall and, because she reacts in a way that appears unbecoming for a woman, earns her the reputation of being a madwoman. Much like her daughter will eventually discover, defying social expectations can appear threatening and lead to oppression and confinement. The fact that they both find themselves trapped in similar situations emphasizes the continual harm that patriarchal values and colonial power dynamics cause to those who resist their pressures.