"The Jamaican ladies had never approved of my mother, 'because she pretty like pretty self' Christophine said. She was my father's second wife, far too young for him they thought, and, worse still, a Martinique girl.”

In the first moments of the novel, Antoinette begins her narration by offering this description of the sociopolitical dynamics which distance her mother from the other women in their community. Beyond the fact that Annette is a white woman and the widow of a former slave owner, the Black Jamaican women also ostracize her due to her Martiniquais heritage. These details reveal just how complex and layered the racial politics are in a colonized landscape, and introducing them at the very start of the novel emphasizes the major impact that race, ethnicity, and cultural background will have on the characters moving forward.

"I never looked at any strange negro. They hated us. They called us white cockroaches. Let sleeping dogs lie."

Antoinette describes the harsh way in which her Black neighbors treat her and her mother in Part One to emphasize just how much animosity remains between them. The persistence of the term “white cockroaches,” even in the aftermath of the Emancipation Act and the Cosway’s subsequent fall into poverty, highlights the fact that whiteness continues to represent a level of power unavailable to many Jamaicans. Following this explanation with the proverb “Let sleeping dogs lie” also suggests that they view this tension as unresolvable. 

"The black people did not hate us quite so much when we were poor. We were white but we had not escaped and soon we would be dead for we had no money left. What was there to hate?"

As Antoinette continues to describe her world at Coulibri in Part One, she observes that her family receives less animosity from their Black neighbors after they fall into poverty. This detail adds an economic component to the balance of power among the different racial identities on the island, suggesting that the threat of whiteness exists on a scale. Given the inherent association between money and power, the impoverished and disgraced Cosways have far fewer resources to impose their will than they did at the height of their financial success.

"We ate English food now, beef and mutton, pies and puddings. I was glad to be like an English girl but I missed the taste of Christophine's cooking."

Antoinette gets her first glimpse of English culture as a young girl in Part One, and her surprising admission that she is happy to act like an English girl reflects the false assumption that this predominantly white culture will better meet her needs. She hopes that this new way of life will bring her a greater sense of belonging, especially since she feels like an outcast on account of both her race and ethnicity. The fact that she misses Christophine’s cooking, however, hints at the futility of her desire to adopt English culture as those traditions do not resonate with her in the same, meaningful way that her own heritage does.

“Then it seems to me that it is my Christian duty to warn the gentleman that she is no girl to marry with the bad blood she have from both sides. But they are white, I am coloured. They are rich, I am poor.”

This quotation comes from Daniel Cosway’s letter to Rochester as he attempts to convince him of Antoinette’s inherent madness. In order to make his case and enact his revenge on the Cosway family, he uses a meek tone and appeals to racial stereotypes as a way of downplaying his influence. Daniel suggests that because he is mixed-race, he has no power to manipulate the narrative surrounding who Antoinette really is or what her family is capable of. He then capitalizes on the control associated with white families during this time to suggest that Antoinette is consciously manipulating Rochester.