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Wide Sargasso Sea

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 2

I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.

Spoken by Rochester, these lines appear at the close of Part Two, at the point when he prepares to leave the Caribbean and decides to bring Antoinette with him. His sudden and largely unexplained decision to render his wife lifeless and mad—to "force the hatred out of her eyes"—makes Rhys's Rochester a more complex and psychologically interesting character than his Brontë prototype. Rochester's willingness to believe Daniel Cosway's sensational stories and his need to confirm his misgivings prompt him to reflect, on receipt of the first incriminating letter, that "I felt no surprise. It was as if I'd expected it, been waiting for it." Like Antoinette, Rochester suffers from paranoia, suspecting that everyone, including his father, Richard Mason, and his own young bride, are laughing at him. The nagging suspicion that he stands on the outside of a well-kept conspiracy drives Rochester to self-contempt, hatred, and an irrational need to regain control. Turning this anger on Antoinette, he seeks to assert his power by becoming her puppeteer, a godlike tyrant who can kill her with his words alone. Rochester symbolically enacts her death at the end of this section of the novel, covering her with a sheet "as if [he] covered a dead girl."

Rochester's hatred of the natural landscape stems from his inability to read it or commune with it. While his servants and his wife find an abundance of meaning in their surroundings, Rochester sees it as an alien, feeling bombarded by its beauty and excess. Rejecting its elaborate contours and intricate meanings, he speaks of the "mountains, and the hills, the river and the rain," refusing to color these nouns with adjectives and descriptions. He reverts to simple nouns, adopting a sparer language and holding the landscape's secret at a safe, controllable distance. His wife's beauty, like that of her home, threatens to bewitch and ensnare Rochester. This passage, more palpably than elsewhere, exposes the logic, however despicable, of his cruel need to gain dominance.