Wide Sargasso Sea: Part Two continued (I)

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At this point, the narrative cuts back to when Rochester first met Antoinette. He ‘played the part’ expected of him and bowed, smiled, kissed her hand and danced with her. He relates that he ‘must have given a faultless performance’ and saw no doubt or curiosity on a white face. He also refers to the wedding ceremony and cuts to the morning before when Richard Mason burst into the room to say she would not go through with it, and would not give a reason. At the time, he did not relish the idea of telling people in England he had been jilted by ‘this Creole girl’ and wanted to know why.


He asked her and she said she was “‘afraid of what may happen’”. He reminded her he had told her the night before that when she is his wife she need no longer be afraid. She said she did not like it when he and Richard laughed together and he said he was laughing at himself. She also said he knows nothing about her and he said he would trust her if she trusted him. She finally nodded in agreement that he could tell Richard it was a mistake (and so would marry him).


He falls asleep remembering this and wakes at the sound of voices. He comes through and realizes how beautiful she is. He notices the red and gold in her hair.


They have a meal and moths and beetles come into the room. They are attracted by the candlelight and die on the tablecloth. She asks if it is true that England is like a dream as a friend who married Englishman told her so, and that London is “‘like a cold dark dream sometimes’” and wants to wake up. He is annoyed by this and says that is how her “‘beautiful island’” seems to him, “‘quite unreal and like a dream’”.


After the meal, they go for a walk on her suggestion and she says how they used to come here to get away from the hot weather. She begins to tell him something and he says he does not want to hear a sad story tonight. She says it is not sad and recalls how one night she had her window open and woke to see two enormous rats on the sill. She remembers not being frightened and saw herself looking in the mirror looking at the rats. He asks what happened and she says she turned over and fell asleep. She woke up again suddenly and the rats were gone, but she felt frightened and lay on the hammock on the veranda. The next day Christophine had been angry and said Antoinette should not have slept in the moonlight as there was a full moon.


He wants to reassure her, but the river flowers are ‘overpoweringly strong’ and he feels giddy. She asks if he agrees that she has slept “‘too long in the moonlight’”. Her eyes are withdrawn and lonely and he puts his arm around her and rocks her like a child. He also sings her an old song.


Back in her room, he pours them a drink of wine and he tells her to drink to their happiness, their love and “‘the day without end which would be tomorrow’”. He also looks back at this time as such: ‘I was young then. A short youth mine was.’


He wakes uneasy the next day and feels as though someone is watching him. He turns to take her in his arms, but Christophine knocks and Antoinette says she has already sent her away twice and so calls her in.


She has brought them breakfast and tells him the coffee is not “‘horse piss’” like the English madams drink. She also says she has had the girl clear up the flowers he stood on (when he first came in) as these bring in cockroaches. She leaves and he criticizes her language and says she could have held up her dress. Antoinette explains that she did this out of respect and is a way of showing she has more than one dress. He also says Christophine looks lazy as she dawdles, and Antoinette says he is mistaken again as she only seems to be slow.


Antoinette goes on to say she thinks she will not get up this morning and he asks if she means not at all. She says she will get up when she wishes and often stays in bed all day. She tells him where to go bathing and advises him to take care of not getting insects on his clothes when he redresses.


As the days pass, he feels the weakness from the fever leave him as well as his misgivings. He continues to go bathing and she joins him in the afternoon when it is warmer. He notices she is undecided and ‘uncertain about facts – any facts’. He sees she is certain about the monster crab, though, and she throws a stone at it ‘like a boy’ and is hardly able to believe she is the same ‘pale silent creature’ he married. He asks her who taught her to throw like that and she laughs and says it was Sandi.


Analysis – Part Two continued

Rochester’s intolerance of difference, and ignorance of cultures other than his own, is given more detail here. When he criticizes Christophine, for example, and Antoinette explains that she is not lazy and only appears to be slow, Antoinette demonstrates that Christophine’s difference to women in England does not diminish her.


He also reveals the part he played in ensuring Antoinette married him and, therefore, shows he was far from innocent or passive in ensuring their relationship was made legal. He reassured her despite her doubts, and tells of how he also did not want to have to say a Creole woman had jilted him. His contempt and sense of superiority and pride are seen to be combined and Antoinette’s seduction is seen to be complete.

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