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Wide Sargasso Sea

Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 3

Our parrot was called Coco, a green parrot. He didn't talk very well, he could say Qui est la? Qui est la? And answer himself Che Coco, Che Coco. After Mr. Mason clipped his wings he grew very bad tempered. . . .
   I opened my eyes, everybody was looking up and pointing at Coco on the glacis railings with his feathers alight. He made an effort to fly down but his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He was all on fire.

These two passages, along with numerous other allusions to birds and captivity, act as premonitions and serve to draw parallels between a highly symbolic natural world and the characters who inhabit it. Eerie and grotesque, descriptions of dead, rotten, and dying animals litter the first and second parts of the novel. Annette's poisoned horse, left to rot and swarming with flies, provides the first in a series of images that prefigure Antoinette's tragic abandonment and violent death. Coco, Annette's beloved parrot and the only possession that she attempts to rescue from the fire, emerges as a key symbol of women's captivity within the novel. Unable to "talk very well," the parrot mirrors the inability of women to gain voice in a patriarchal society. When he does speak, the parrot uses a French patois that aligns it with a female world embodied by Christophine, Martinique, and natural magic. His repeated question, "Qui est là," translates to "Who is there?" and underscores the paranoia, persecution, and issues of identity that trouble both Antoinette and her mother. Responding to itself, "I am Coco," the parrot repeatedly asserts its own name and fixes it own identity, reciting a mantra that, like an incantation, works as protection. Mr. Mason's unexplained impulse to clip the bird's wings indicates the white, male, English need to control.

Describing the events of the Coulibri fire, Antoinette recalls Coco's gruesome death in vivid detail. She experiences, perhaps, an unconscious presentiment of her own final moments, falling from the burning battlements of Thornfield Hall. In the dream that precedes and inspires her death, Antoinette thinks back to Coco, imagining herself as a wild incarnation of the tropical bird: "The wind caught my hair and it streamed out like wings. It might bear me up, I thought, if I jumped to those hard stones." Just as the gathered servants point and stare at the flaming bird, generations of readers have imagined the ghoulish image of a Creole madwoman and watched her death with a voyeuristic complacency.