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.