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Wide Sargasso Sea

Summary

Part Two, Section Two

Summary Part Two, Section Two

Animals and plants dominate the imagery of this section, a glimpse of the natural world that offers insight into Rhys's principal characters. Antoinette's story about rats, for example, manifests her fear of being watched and followed. The repeated images of petals falling from blooming flowers reflect the fragility of Antoinette's beauty and the quick collapse that one careless touch might cause. The moths and beetles that fly into the candle flames during the couple's first dinner at Granbois recall the feverish state of both characters: both Rochester and Antoinette have suffered near-fatal fevers in the past, as if to represent their emotional volatility and their inability to cope with a strange and menacing outside world. These images of death by fire also echo Coco the parrot's fate at Coulibri and presage Antoinette's own death at the close of the novel.

Antoinette and Rochester both appear overwhelmed by the lush tropical world. Rochester, who is not used to the powerful sights and scents of a living natural environment, feels particularly assaulted by its onslaught. The night, with its bright stars and fragrant flowers, operates to heighten the mood of mystery and sensuality that marks the couple's first nights together. As they begin to hunger for one another physically, Rochester and Antoinette succumb to the powerful and primitive atmosphere of their isolated surroundings. Sexually free, Antoinette also feels emotionally free as she explores her inner gloom. It is only at night that Antoinette whispers her secret sadness to her husband, hiding behind the safety of darkness.