The Analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea Essay Example
Wide Sargasso Sea is a novel written by Jean Rhys about a woman who becomes mad after feeling isolated in her community. The book is a prequel to the novel Jane Eyre, and tells the story of Antoinette, Rochester’s mad wife. While growing up in Jamaica, Antoinette lives as a Creole, which differentiates her from the whites and the blacks. After enduring several tragedies such as her house being burned down, Antoinette becomes depressed and spends the rest of her life locked up. Antoinette ultimately becomes insane because of her position in society as an outcast, which was caused by the ill treatment she faced by the British and the ex-slaves.
Although Antoinette was sane in the beginning of the book, she slowly loses her mind because of her traumatic experiences. Throughout her life as a teenager, Antoinette is sane because she communicates her emotions clearly with Christophine and develops a strong relationship with her and Aunt Cora. Once Antoinette marries Rochester, Rochester dominates the relationship and strips Antoinette of her identity and freedom. After Antoinette returns from a trip with Christophine, Rochester sees her in her room and says, “When I saw her I was too shocked to speak. Her hair hung uncombed and dull into her eyes which were inflamed and staring, her face was very flushed and looked swollen. Her feet were bare. However when she spoke her voice was low, almost inaudible” (Rhys 87). Antoinette’s first major sign of insanity is shown when her whole appearance and voice diminish. Rochester’s accusations affected Antoinette deeply and caused her to lose her mentality.
As a mentally ill person, Antoinette also drinks heavily to relieve her depression. As Antoinette and Rochester are about to leave Dominica, Rochester describes Antoinette as “staring out to the distant sea. She was silence itself” (Rhys 101). Antoinette has lost the desire to speak, since she feels angry toward Rochester for changing her true identity. In addition, Antoinette’s insanity is marked by memory loss. When Antoinette is locked up, Grace Poole says, “‘It was when said “legally” that you flew at him and when he twisted the knife out of your hand you bit him. Do you mean to say you don’t remember any of this?’” (Rhys 109). Antoinette has no control of her actions at this point, and she only remembers that Richard is her brother. She believes Richard did not recognize her when he saw her, since her appearance has drastically changed with her madness.
As a member of the “other”, Antoinette and her mother are continually oppressed by the British. Although Antoinette is white, she is also Creole and her descendants are from the island of Martinique. Since Martinique is a French colony, Antoinette and her mother are outed by the British. After Antoinette is mocked by the Luttrells for her dirty dress, Christophine says, “‘These new ones have Letter of the Law. Same thing. They got magistrate. They got fine. They got jail house and clean gang. They got tread machine to mash up people’s feet. New ones worse than the old ones-more cunning, that’s all’” (Rhys 15). Christophine refers to the British as the “new ones” since they control Jamaica and have power both over the blacks and the non-British whites, such as the Creoles. Annette takes out her anger about being outed on Antoinette, even before the fire occurred. Antoinette is eventually rejected multiple times by her mother, which causes Antoinette not to feel apathy when her mother dies. Not only are the British against the Creoles, but also the blacks who were once their slaves.
The ex-slaves of Jamaica are a big factor in changing tormenting Antoinette, by calling her offensive names and rejecting her from their social group. Since England passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, all of the blacks who were once slaves of Antoinette’s descendants were free, so they felt hatred towards their previous owners. One of Antoinette’s close friends in the beginning of the book was a black girl named Tia. After Antoinette’s house is set on fire and Tia throws a stone at Antoinette, Antoinette says, “I did not feel it either, only something wet, running down my face. I looked at face crumple up as she began to cry. We stared at each other, blood on my face, tears on hers. It was as if I saw myself. Like in a looking-glass” (Rhys 27).
Antoinette loses the trust of her only friend whom she goes for comfort, causing her to feel isolated and depressed. Even when Antoinette is married to Rochester, she still lives with other blacks who neglect her. After Amelie, a black servant, criticizes Antoinette of her love for Rochester, Antoinette “jumped out of bed and slapped her face. ‘I hit you back white cockroach. I hit you back,’ said Amelie. And she did. Antoinette gripped her hair” (Rhys 60). Antoinette’s feelings intensify and she attacks Amelie. In previous parts of the book, Antoinette has been called a “white cockroach”, so the repetition of the phrase causes Antoinette to release her feelings of anger toward the black community who rejected her.
After suffering through several tragedies, Antoinette begins to lose her sanity. Throughout the book, Antoinette has multiple nightmares that either show her past or foreshadow her obstacles. As a member of the Creole, Antoinette is outed by both the black and white community. Her constant states of fear and depression cause her to go insane. Not only is Antoinette not a member of the black or white community, but she is also rejected and harassed by these communities, which diminishes her state of mind.