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Wide Sargasso Sea

Part Three, Section One

Summary Part Three, Section One

Rochester's estate in England recalls the estate of Coulibri after the death of Mr. Cosway. At Rochester's house—which, although never explicitly named in Wide Sargasso Sea, is known to readers of Jane Eyre as "Thornfield Hall"—the old servants have all been sent away, just as Coulibri emptied after the death of Mr. Cosway. Suspicion pervades both estates. Just as Annette distrusted the black servants, so Rochester distrusts his own English ones. He offers money to Grace Poole in exchange for her silence and discretion. Transformed into a cynical realist, Rochester understands and accepts human greed, even though he previously condemned it in Daniel Cosway. He knows his command over his servants is tenuous, as was the Cosway's at Coulibri; authority cannot be assumed, but must be bought.

In one passage, Rhys allows us to hear Grace's private thoughts, revealing a similarity between Grace and Antoinette. Grace, like Antoinette in her time at the convent, fears the world outside of Thornfield Hall, feeling safe behind its thick stone walls. In showing Grace's vulnerability, Rhys gives her a reason for playing such a detestable part in Antoinette's cruel captivity. While Rhys never condones Grace's immoral actions, she does explain them, lending a fairness to her rewriting of Brontë's text.

Antoinette's narrative in Part Three works to humanize our conception of the Creole madwoman as shaped by Brontë's novel. Given the emptiness of Antoinette's days and her isolation from the outside world, she necessarily loses track of time and place. Otherwise, Antoinette seems to be lucid, as she questions the reasons for her captivity and abuse. We feel firsthand the horror of her entrapment, which calls to mind the slavery in her native land. The ocean voyage from the Caribbean to England, while reversing the direction of the transatlantic slave routes, recalls such images of terror, confusion, and discomfort. Interestingly, the barbarity of Antoinette's enslavement takes place on the western island that Rochester believes to be the seat of civilized logic and reason.