Wide Sargasso: Part Two continued (II)

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In the evenings, they watch the sunset. He asks if she is happy here on this island and she says she loves it more than a person. She also says how good Baptiste is as an overseer and he agrees although he does not trust ‘them’ and thinks Antoinette is careless in the way she hands out money.


She says she used to think it would be better if she were dead and that he cannot imagine Coulibri. He thinks she is like other girls during the day as she smiles at herself in the looking glass, and sings and talks to Christophine. He is critical of her hugging and kissing her, though, and notices that at night even Antoinette’s voice changes and talks of death, and asks why did he make her want to live. He answers it is because he wished it and she asks what will happen to her if he no longer wishes it. She is afraid of losing her happiness.


He grows to like the ‘mountain people’ and only at night feels danger. He tries to push it away. He tells her she is safe and she likes this. He does not love her, but is ‘thirsty’ for her. He sees her as ‘a stranger’ that does not think or feel as he does. He also sees her as an ‘obstinate child’ and as much as she asks him about England and he tells her, she does not change her mind about it. Her ideas are already fixed.


One day, he receives an urgent letter and it informs him that he has been deceived by the Mason family. The writer says her family name is really Cosway and they were ‘wicked and detestable slave-owners’ for generations and everybody hates them in Jamaica. There is also madness in the family: ‘Old Cosway die raving like his father before him.’ The writer says he is Antoinette’s half-brother ‘by another lady’, and is ‘half-way house as we say’, and is illegitimate and poor.


He goes on to explain that after the Emancipation Act nobody would work for Antoinette’s mother. She had no money and no friends and is described as going mad. Antoinette is referred to as hiding herself if she saw anybody. After re-marrying, her mother (Annette, but full name Antoinette) tried to kill her husband, the writer claims, and he left Jamaica and does not know if she is alive or dead. He does know Antoinette has half of Mason’s money since his death and he (the writer) now lives near Massacre and sees it as his duty to let Rochester know about his wife and how she has ‘bad blood’ from both sides. He hears Rochester is as bewitched by Antoinette as old Mason was with her mother, ‘and look what happen to him’. He adds that if he still does not believe him, he should ask Richard Mason if Antoinette’s mother is or was ‘a raging lunatic’, if Antoinette’s brother was ‘an idiot from birth’, and if Antoinette is going ‘the same way’. He finally says Rochester should come and see him, Daniel Cosway, and to ask Amélie where he lives.


Rochester is not surprised at the letter. An orchid touches his cheek as he walks and remembers picking one for Antoinette and saying it was like her. He breaks off a spray and tramples it on the ground.


At the house, he eavesdrop on Antoinette and Amélie. Amélie says Christophine is going as she does not like ‘this sweet honeymoon house’ and turns and laughs loudly when she sees Rochester. She then says Antoinette’s husband looks like he has seen a zombie and must be tired of the sweet honeymoon house too.


Antoinette jumps out of bed and slaps her face. Amélie calls her a white cockroach and hits her back. Antoinette grips her hair and Amélie bares her teeth and he intervenes. He calls Amélie ‘child’ and tells her to go away. When she leaves the room, she sings about a white cockroach marrying and buying a young man. Antoinette cuts through the sheet and rips it in half and then strips. Christophine enters and says she is leaving, and tells Antoinette to get up and be strong. Amélie comes in with jugs of hot water and smiles at Rochester.


In a soft voice, Christophine says she will mash her face if she smiles like that again. She will also give her a bellyache she will not be able to get up from. Amélie looks frightened and creeps out of the room, and Christophine compares her to a centipede


Analysis – Part Two continued

The letter from Daniel Cosway is full of spite with regard to Antoinette and her family, but it also draws on truth. Rochester is unsurprised by it, and it is as though this confirms the prejudices he had been harbouring. The references to ‘bad blood’ provide him with the evidence to support his view of Antoinette’s inferiority to him – in his opinion – and so the letter adds weight to his already prejudiced view of her and the culture she comes from.


Prior to receiving the letter, it is explained that Rochester does not love and has only a ‘thirst’ for her. He also considers her to be an ‘obstinate child’, as her opinions do not tally with his, and his infantilising of her views also tie in with his incipient racism. He hints that he considers her to be a woman of mixed race, and in a patriarchal and racist society she is considered to be the lowest in society’s hierarchy.

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